I’m sick of being sick. It’s not just the cancer. My back problem makes the cancer seem merely inconvenient. The protruding disk is so big it’s almost completely blocking my spinal cavity, and it’s pinching the nerves in there. Bottom line? Severe nerve pain in my left leg, especially when I walk.
So I don’t walk. I lie on my couch, eating painkillers and anti-nausea drugs and anti-inflammatories. I sleep when I can. I read. I think. But mostly I just lie around, waiting.
Waiting for what? Well. This is the crazy part. I’m waiting to either get on a waiting list or to become permanently disabled as a result of waiting too long.
My doctor’s been trying to get me an appointment with either an orthopedic surgeon or a neurosurgeon, but she’s being told that here in Ottawa, orthopedic surgeons have two-year waiting lists. I’m not even on a waiting list yet.
My doctor says my situation is urgent but it’s not yet an emergency. I will be escalated to emergency status when I lose bowel or bladder control, or when I lose the ability to voluntarily lift my toes toward my knee (foot drop, it’s called, and it’s not as innocuous as it sounds).
I’m going to end up addicted to narcotics because of this. The painkillers don’t eliminate the pain, they just dull it as long as I’m lying down. Walking is still excruciating. The painkillers are addictive, so I have to choose between addiction and constant severe pain. What kind of choice is that?
I’m probably going to lose my house. My severance package will not stretch to cover two years of unemployment, and I won’t qualify for welfare or disability as long as I have a house. I can work, but I can’t commute to and from a job. (I’m looking for work I can do from my couch.)
And then there’s the rest of my body. It’s just not healthy to spend two years lying down. My muscles are atrophying. I was never a triathlete or anything like that, but I’m not cut out for this slug-like existence either. Walking has been my primary form of transportation and exercise all my life. I do my best thinking when I’m walking. I love walking. I need to walk!
I also need to do something about this situation. I can’t just lie here for years, waiting for the health care system to get around to me. I don’t care if there’s a shortage of orthopedic surgeons and the population is aging and operating room time is limited. I need surgery. This is Canada. This is ridiculous.
I don’t believe in a two-tiered health care system, and I don’t believe in jumping the queue. It breaks my Canadian heart to tell you I’m willing to set aside my own values in order to get what I need right now.
If you have any suggestions about what I can do to expedite access to an orthopedic surgeon or a neurosurgeon, please let me know. Who should I be talking to? Politicians? Doctors? Health care administrators?