One kidney, no NSAIDs
I whine a lot on this blog. A very good friend of mine — a friend who is much wiser than I am — told me that I’m not so much whiny as I am “honest.” I guess that’s a nice way to put it!
Here’s more whining: I’m not allowed to take NSAIDs anymore, and that makes me sad. I’ve written about how Aleve helps me survive my periods. It’s also my go-to when my ovarian cysts explode.
I went to the doctor about my fatigue. That’s another PCOS symptom. He, of course, sent for more tests, and then asked me about my kidney. For those new to my blog, I have the coolest kidney in the world. It’s big and does the work of two kidneys, because I don’t have two kidneys. I have one kidney. That restricts my life in only very minor ways (I avoid contact sports, which I would have done anyway, and drink a lot of water, which I would have done anyway).
However, I didn’t know that NSAIDs, especially naproxen sodium (Aleve), aren’t too great for your kidneys. My doctor, with his Very Concerned Doctor Face™, admonished me to stop taking NSAIDs.
“I need them for pain management,” I said. “I have polycystic ovarian syndrome, and my cysts rupture sometimes.”
For the next few minutes, I clarified that no, my kidney isn’t polycystic, my ovaries are, like I said. (My normal doctor is on leave right now.) And he was very sympathetic to the fact that cyst ruptures fucking hurt, so he decided to prescribe me another pain pill.
He prescribed me Tramadol.
I filled it it, but I don’t want to take it. I never wanted to take an opioid painkiller, even though my doctors have offered to prescribe them for me many times. I don’t like the idea of taking a drug that can cause dependency, that often does cause dependency, that has a litany of crappy side effects — that’s why I always took Aleve and gritted my teeth.
Now, a big part of this is my able-bodied privilege — I can avoid taking opioids because my body and its relatively low daily pain levels give me that choice. I’m not interested in perpetuating painkiller stigma. While painkiller abuse is a problem, the stigma attached to painkillers makes life harder for people managing chronic pain, people who need these drugs in order to live their lives. People who don’t need to deal with stereotypes about regular opioid use.
I’m lucky in that my pain is only so severe as to require medicine for a few days a month. I don’t need to take Tramadol every day, as many people do. In fact, the only medicine I take every day is Prilosec — and I have no problem going to work every day, cleaning my apartment, caring for my cat, and performing other daily tasks.
Am I happy that so few options exist for my pelvic pain? Hell no. But in that instant where I balked at the idea of taking an opioid as needed, I caught myself in an act of un-checked able-bodied privilege. I had to check my own stereotypes about painkiller use and abuse. I had to stop and reflect on the fact that I have a choice in this matter, that my pain allows me to take this drug, a drug that makes live bearable for many people, as needed as opposed to on a regular basis.
I’ll keep an open mind. I won’t take it unless the pain becomes unbearable. In the meantime, I’ll research alternate means of pain management — a good friend suggested breathing techniques and acupuncture.
But I’ll also challenge my assumptions about opioids. They’re not just menaces causing abuse epidemics. They’re powerful chemicals that need to be respected, and need to be available for those whose pain necessitates their use.