Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Just say NO!

It's amazing how much power there is in such a little word. When I say the word NO, I can feel the power rising up in me. Even when you whisper the word, it's authoritative. I've learned to love the word and that wasn't always true of me. You see, I've been a people pleaser most of my life but I didn't realize it. I never understood doing something when you didn't really want to do it wasn't the way things were supposed to be. I was always raised to be agreeable, so I never rocked the boat until I was in my late teens and I learned I had a voice. But even after I learned I had my own opinion and I had a right to voice it, I usually kept my opinions to myself. When I reached my mid forties however, things drastically changed.

When I began working for one of the mega churches in the Metro Atlanta area, I decided to participate in a training program for lay counselors. As part of our training, each of the participants had to go through personal counseling. I'd never been through counseling of any kind before and found it new and exciting. As the counseling sessions progressed, I found myself opening up more than I intended and in the process, discovered many things about myself I'd never focused on before. That's when I discovered I was a people pleaser and had been for most of my life. It was a way of gaining acceptance. When a person fears rejection, learning to please others becomes paramount and often to their own detriment.

I'm well into my fifties now, in fact, on the cusp of sixty! I've not only learned how to use my voice, I've learned I don't really care what anyone thinks of me anymore. I've learned it's okay to set healthy boundaries and feel good about it. I'm no longer a people pleaser. I've learned how to say NO.

A couple of months after I'd had surgery for breast cancer, I began to experience a lot of pain. It was mostly concentrated in my spine but also radiated to other parts of my body. I began to become concerned. I'd heard my oncologist mention when cancer comes back it often attacks the spine, brain, bones, lungs, or liver so naturally, I thought the worst. I dealt with the pain for months and months before contacting my doctor. I was afraid to be told my cancer had come back so I suffered in silence. Soon the pain became unbearable and I had to do something. Tylenol wasn't working. I sent the doctor an email through the patient portal and he quickly responded. (Most doctors nowadays prefer electronic communication instead of phone calls and the responses are almost instantaneous which is good for the patient.) I was surprised when he prescribed Cymbalta. On the television ads, I'd always heard that drug was for those suffering severe depression. I wasn't suffering from depression. I thought there'd been an error and perhaps he'd gotten his emails crossed confusing me with another patient. When I checked with the nurse, she assured me he knew what he was doing.

I took the Cymbalta and was surprised to receive relief in just a few days. It was amazing and I thought it was the best thing ever. I was so thankful for a doctor who knew his stuff. Who would have thought an anti-depressant type drug would help with overall body pain, but it did! For the next month things were great! I wasn't hurting at all. No spine pain. No body aches. Zilch, zip, nada. IT WAS FANTASTIC! It felt like a miracle. I was so grateful. Then one night, while sitting in front of the TV with my husband, I was bored. I started to do some internet research. I'm always on a quest for knowledge...but sometimes it's not a good thing. I began reading all the side effects related to Cymbalta. I also found out it's highly addictive and there are some ugly withdrawal symptoms associated with it. That's when I got scared. I didn't want to become addicted to a medication and I surely didn't want to become dependent on it function. I began to wonder why I'd agreed to take it in the first place but I trusted my doctor. He had more medical knowledge than I did, but this was my body. I knew immediately I needed to come off the drug even though it had been helping me cope with a great deal of pain.

The following morning, I contacted my oncologist and explained my plight. I was instructed to gradually decrease the dosage of Cymbalta for the next two weeks and then discontinue the drug. It wasn't wise to stop "cold turkey."  I was asked if I wanted to try another medication and for a split second, I didn't know how to respond but I remembered my power! I remembered I had a right to say NO and so I did.

Today is the first full day of being off the medication and so far, so good. I have no idea what the future holds, but I feel good about the decision I made to stop taking the drug. It's often hard to know the best decision to make but it's important to weigh all aspects carefully and follow your heart. Though it might seem coincidental that I was bored and just began randomly searching side effects of medications I'm on, I know there's more to it. I'm a firm believer the Holy Spirit leads and guides me in all aspects of my life because I trust Him to do so. I'm thankful I felt led to read about Cymbalta and contact my doctor. I'm also thankful I have the power to say NO.

Putting a chemical into my body isn't something I take lightly. Doctors, while they want to offer their patients comfort, don't always know all side effects of all medications and they certainly don't know how each specific medication will be tolerated by each individual patient. It's our responsibility, as patients, to speak up for our rights. If a drug is causing unwanted side effects, the doctor needs to be alerted. Sometimes it's okay to say NO, even to a doctor and I'm glad I did.

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