Had my little list with me of things I needed to ask/say. Saves the usual pantomime of playing "Twenty Questions" when I forget every other word and name! Even medicines I've been taking for a decade! Didn't entirely work. Still managed to do a bit of "Errrrrrrm...." where she had to do an impromptu prompt. Mostly correct!
First on my list: feedback on my follow-up at cardio a fortnight ago. The cardio said the various heart tests showed I had tachycardia, heart going like a steam hammer, with extra beats. Which would explain the glugs and giggles I can regularly feel there. He didn't say exactly what was causing it. But that combination sounded like A-Fib or A-flutter of some type. He put me on a low dose (2.5mg daily) of beta blocker bisoprolol. "See me in 6 months".
Trouble is, GP hadn't had a letter to confirm this. So she was whistling in the dark. She doesn't think it'll be A-Fib, as that's irregular beats on irregular beats. (I could just see her picturing the med school diagrams in her head!). It would be ectopic beats, she said. I reminded her it was tachycardia, too, and mentioned how common P.O.T.S. (Post Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) and OI (Orthostatic Intolerance) is in M.E. She actually took this suggestion on board, and seemed to think it might be a possibility. Not a diagnosis, of course. That would be asking too much, wouldn't it? Can't force them to do Tilt Table tests, can we?
By the time my month-long initial bisoprolol prescription runs out, she says, she should have the letter from cardio, and it will then be on my repeat script. We hope! Maybe I can make another appointment then to find out what's what. She mentioned what the cardio didn't, that beta blockers also tend to block diabetic hypo early warning signs like speeding heartrate. I'd read that online, but reminded her that one of my biggy problems is that I get no such helpful safe warning till my blood glucose suddenly plummets to 1.9. Shutting the stable door after the diabetic pony has bolted, as it were. So that shouldn't be any additional problem to someone who has to test as often as I do already! "To be continued," then!
Second on my list was painkillers. Mentioned that friends with M.E. had been taking Pregabalin (Lyrica) or its cheaper, sluttier sister Gabapentin. Asked also about commonly M.E.-prescribed Tramadol - but as I react very badly with sickening side-effects to anything opoid-like, this wasn't an option. She duly started me on Gabapentin. Slow build-up. 100mg tab today and tomorrow. Up to 200mg in two doses on Thursday and Friday. Then up to 300mg in 3 doses by the weekend. She did say some people take as many as 9 a day. Hope it won't come to that!
Very glad my surgery now has a fabulous, efficient chemist within the waiting room. No trailing into the shopping precinct to the Co-op Chemist. They never used to have half the stuff, even the meds you regularly ordered! So that used to mean two, even three return trips for meds you were "owed". Today, from this in-house chemist, I came home with Gabapentin in hand!
I glossed over item three on my list. The Jobcentre Plus adviser had handed me an application form for DLA (Disability Living Allowance) and told me to get help from my GP and from the M.E. Association. I hate claiming anything. I know so many friends with all sorts of life-crushing disabilities much more easily recognised than M.E. who have been turned down at the first hurdle, dropped to the lowest rates, or lost it after qualifying for years as the new Welfare Reform Act does its evil ATOS-infested devastation in lives already wrecked by illness.
I muttered that I hate claiming anything if I can possibly manage. She already accepts that, having known me when I was still able to work, before my most recent relapse meant I was finally diagnosed and then forced to take reluctant early retirement from the ministry. GP says she would support my application by filling in her bit. But I still probably won't. Does she realise fully, even now, how badly I am affected when not inside her office for ten minutes every so often? Soon DLA will become the dreaded and much-criticised PIP (Personal Independence Payment) for which, it seems, only the semi-comatose, along with the odd corpse will qualify.
Last but not least on my list was the DVD of "Voices from the Shadows", the devastating documentary about paediatric M.E. and the ways in which the medical profession is currently failing people with neurological M.E. I simply passed one of my spare copies over to the doc, with a quick word about what it was and why she might find it interesting. She seemed intrigued and grateful. I can't be sure she will watch it, but I'm really hopeful she will. I'll be able to have a gentle check when I see her again. Maybe it's something more of us could try? Ingredients needed: DVD; GP with potential open mind. Stir. Leave to rise and mature! (Other bona fide M.E. information is available!)
I know, with me as her patient, and others over the years, she has come at least a little way towards greater understanding of M.E. She had a long way to go, let's be honest! In 2005-6, the only option she had, under NICE guidelines, was to bundle me off, as soon as I wasn't permanently bedridden and housebound, to the local CFS/ME "fatigue" clinic in the nearest town for a spot of CBT and GET after 6 months of tests to eliminate all other possibilities.
Today reminded me my own GP's not there yet! Still a way to go. She still chuckled rather dismissively when I mentioned some people had seen improvement with LDN (Low Dose Naltrexone):
"Oh yes! That's not licensed!" she laughed, "But I suppose people will try anything when they're desperate!"
We ARE those people. We ARE desperate. We need help and support and we need it NOW! We need biomedical research NOW! I pray that if she watches "Voices from the Shadows" and just once hears the haunting, heartbreaking sound of Sophia Mirza reasoning and pleading with police and psychologists who have broken down her door in the dead of the night, my GP will be changed forever. Maybe then she'll pass it on to other colleagues. Maybe they too will be changed. Maybe, just maybe, the long road towards the target of awareness of M.E. for all the medical profession and society will be lit up by one or more new lights. One day nearer to care and cure.