Just a Little Needle

I posted an entry a while ago, titled “My Body Is Rebelling!”  There, I talked about my adventures in the unexplored country that is Crohn’s Disease.  For all that I dramatized the situation, I thought the worst was over; I had a plan, even if it was one I didn’t like, and I intended to stick to it.  Maybe I wished for something else, but it was only a wish.

My mother always told me to be careful what you wish for!

A quick recap:  Crohn’s is an autoimmune disease, meaning that my body attacks itself.  Essentially, my immune system took a look at my large intestine, shouted “Traitor!!!” and went on the attack.  The answer to that is to take an immunosuppressant drug for the rest of my life.  My immune system takes a long, drowsy nap; my digestive system heaves a sigh of relief; and everyone is happy.  I’ll admit, I was a little alarmed when I saw that the same drug, Azathioprine, is also used as an antirejection drug for kidney transplants—but hey, any port in a storm.

Day one:  No problems.  Day two:  Same.  Day five:  Hey, this is pretty easy, what was I worried about?  Day six:  Uh-oh, this kind of itches…By day ten, I was covered from neck to ankles in hives larger than half-dollars.  Wait, I thought this drug was supposed to suppress the immune system?  And isn’t an allergic reaction a form of immune response?  Apparently the manufacturer of Azathioprine didn’t get that memo.  I discontinued and headed back to the doctor.

Confession time:  Today is the first and only time I have ever cursed at a doctor.  He took it well, all things considered; he knew that it was only half in reaction to him.  The other half—and by half I mean most if not all—was in reaction to the needle in his hand, the needle that he was gleefully telling me I’d have to stick myself with every two weeks for the rest of my life.

In the previous article, I made a very brief statement to the effect that I hate needles.  I’m here to tell you today that that is a great, vast understatement.  There are no capital letters big enough to fully capture my hatred of needles!  Needles and I have a long and antagonistic relationship dating back to the early eighties, at least.  My crowning achievement with them is the ability to say that I’ve never passed out while receiving an injection—but I’ve had my share of close calls, and your share too.  It’s a phobia, pure and simple (Needlephobia? Pokeophobia?  I’m almost afraid to Google this one), just as much as fear of flying, or of crowds.  I thought I had come a long way in overcoming it—I took semi-annual PPD tests for years, and can now take an annual flu shot without flinching—but all that was turned on its head today, when the doctor said that I would have to give myself injections.  No sir, that is NOT in the game plan!

Top five terrible things said at this appointment (other than my outburst of profanity):

5.            It won’t hurt.  No way!  Because of course it’s the overwhelming pain of the injection that makes me hate it.  No, friend, it’s a phobia—it’s the anticipation that causes the fear, not the actual pain.

                4.            It’s only every other week.  There’s a corollary here:  It could be every day.  Yes, yes it could.  And you are a terrible man for suggesting such a thing.

                3.            Get over it.  What kind of doctor says this?  Great bedside manner, Doctor.

                2.            You can get used to anything.  I could also get used to having a finger joint removed every other week, but I don’t expect I’d ever find it enjoyable.

And the Number One most terrible thing said at this office visit:

  1. 1.               It’s only a little needle.  Folks, let me explain something to you.  There is no such thing as a little needle!  This one came out of a box that was approximately six by eight inches (a package of two, actually), but the needle was fifty-five feet long and thirteen feet wide, with a bore wide enough to fire artillery shells.  The contents could be measured in gallons, or possibly tanks.  I’m sure those measurements are correct.  I saw it with my own eyes.  I’m reminded of the old Far Side comic in which a nurse, a doctor and a patient are in an exam room; the nurse is holding a hypodermic the size of a large child; and the doctor is saying, “I thought I asked you for the BIG needle!  The BIG needle!”

So I was not a happy camper.  I later commented to a few friends, “I keep saying to myself, it could be worse; but every time I say that about this situation, it gets worse.”  I think I will watch what I say.

Don’t get me wrong:  I’ll take the drug, assuming that there truly is no acceptable alternative (still investigating that possibility).  Leaving this illness untreated is not an option.  But it will not be a pleasant experience for me; and if I have my way about it, it will be unpleasant for the needle too.  Because, as I said in my previous post, this is war!  And in this war, we take no prisoners—not even of the injectable variety.

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