Saturday, October 24, 2020

My fear factor

Gotta admit: Today I’m particularly trepidatious, because I’m finally starting one of my new prescriptions. It’s not the drug itself—I was on it before—but, instead, the fact I’m doing this alone. I’ve had to face a lot of things alone over the past year, some more difficult than others, but this one? Yeah, it ain’t pretty.

On Tuesday of last week, I had a private appointment with a cardiologist to evaluate where I’m at, and what can be done about it. Among other things, he wrote a new prescription for a drug to help control my heart rate (Felodipine), one which, hopefully, won’t make me as tired as the one I’ve been on (Diltiazem). That’s the drug I started today. I’ll wait until later to start new the blood-thinner.

As I said in the post last week, Felodipine was the first drug they gave me to control my blood pressure, and I tolerated it very well, so I doubt I’ll have any problems tolerating it now. That’s not what worries me: It’s the “what iffs”.

Over the past five years (the past three especially), I’ve had a lot of prescription changes. That always gave me a certain amount of uneasiness because it’s impossible to know upfront if there will be any side effects and, if so, how bad they’ll be. However, I always had Nigel to be my backup eyes and ears to notice any changes I might not (such as behaviour, flushing, etc.). I always used to start new drugs on a Saturday (sometimes a Friday) because Nigel would be home over the weekend and could help me if I had difficulties, as unlikely as they may have been. He made me feel more secure and safe, and that was worth a helluva lot.

That’s gone now, and this is the first prescription change I’ve had without him. If something goes catastrophically wrong, it’s probable that no one would know for, perhaps, days. To be absolutely clear, it’s highly unlikely that anything could go that wrong. Instead, the actual possible risks are ones I can be aware of and easily deal with—but it would be so much easier on me, less scary, less stressful, and, obviously, much more reassuring, if Nigel was with me.

So, I chose to do the next-best that I could do: I started the new pill today, a Saturday, because the family is off work for the holiday weekend. If I do start feeling unwell, or just get scared for whatever reason, I have people I can call on without interrupting their work (because I know me: Them being at work would keep me from reaching out, which was also true even with Nigel). As I said, I certainly don’t expect anything to go wrong since it didn’t before, however, there’s one thing that’s more possible: The new drug may fail to control my heart rate and I could end up in tachycardia again, the first time in 17 months—and Nigel looked after me that time.

I have devices to monitor my heart rate and heart rhythm. My heart rhythm is controlled by a different drug (Amiodarone) that isn’t changing, but that doesn’t mean that afib couldn’t be triggered if I end up in tachycardia. And that’s what I’m actually worried about.

I put off starting this new drug mostly because of that, but also because I have the better part of two months of the old drug left, and the only thing that can happen to it is to take it back to the pharmacy for destruction—they can’t reuse it in any way. That’s such a waste. As an aside, there’s a common belief that the drugs we return can be sent to developing countries, but that’s not true, mainly because they have no way of knowing if the patient kept the drugs stored correctly, and, if not, the drugs might be useless or worse (and, I realised only recently, it’s also a wee bit colonialist to assume that drugs that are no longer deemed safe for us would be okay for a developing country). Because of that, too, I waited until today. It’s also the reason that I planned on waiting even longer, however, the possibility that I may feel better finally outweighed my resistance to wasting prescription medicine.

The other drug, the blood thinner, is another matter entirely. My current drug (Dabigatran) has unpleasant side effects, but doesn’t otherwise impact my life in any way. I can keep using what I have until I run out, and then switch. This way, too, I’ll know for sure if one drug or the other is causing side effects, because when I change multiple drugs all at once, how I can possibly know which one is causing a problem? That much, at least, was my plan all along (and the cardiologist suggested it for that very reason).

I’m worried about the new blood thinner (Rivaroxaban) because it apparently has more incidents of uncontrolled bleeding. That scares me. Between now and the time I run out of Dabigatran, I have to think about whether I’m willing to take the risk. But that’s not today.

Today I’m anxious because I just switched to a drug that may not control my heart rate and I could end up in tachycardia again, and, possibly, have an afib incident. That would mean hospital again. I could be sarcastic and say that it would mean I’d only need one more hospitalisation to collect the whole set and win the prize of getting on the waiting list for the procedure I need, but, even as irreverent as I am, I can’t see the humour in this situation. I’m actually changing drugs only to give me a better quality of life in case I’m on these drugs for years to come, and that’s a worthy goal. But it doesn’t take the fear and worry away. At all. Nigel could always do that, though.

Today—especially—I miss him so damn much.

Important note: This is about my own personal health journey. My experiences are my own, and shouldn’t be taken as indicative for anyone else. Similarly, other people may have completely different reactions to the same medications I take—better or worse. I share my experiences because others may have the same or similar experiences, and I want them to know that they’re not alone. But, as always, discuss your situation and how you’re feeling openly, honestly, and clearly with your own doctor, and always feel free to seek a second opinion from another doctor.


Roger Owen Green said...

Yikes. I have a cardiologist too! I wish you well in your regimen.

Arthur Schenck said...

Thanks—same to you!!!