Back in 2013, I developed a throbbing toothache, the kind that had me laying down on the couch with ice, whining about how it came out of nowhere. Later that afternoon, it went away. I assumed I’d chewed something wrong, and it was a fluke. (Little did I know, it was going to be a wake up call.)
Problem is, it started happening again, and again, and again. I saw a dentist who found nothing wrong. I went home, happy but puzzled. Two more dentist visits before one finally referred me to an ENT (ear, nose and throat doctor) because he didn’t want to pull a tooth that didn’t have an apparent issue.
The ENT sent me to an allergist, and from there, doctor musical chairs started. A couple of months later, my new neurologist laid it on me: “I think you have a disorder called Atypical Trigeminal Neuralgia. There’s no cure, and it can be one of the most painful disorders, but we hope to manage it with medication. Surgery is available for some, but your MRI does not indicate you are a good candidate.”
That day began a long period of adjustment. The first medication didn’t work successfully and left me with side effects that impeded my ability to function properly. After giving it a couple of weeks, thinking my system would adjust, I returned to the neurologist who changed my medication. I followed her instructions specifically and within a week, my pain lessened. The side effects disappeared, I had my energy back, and I began to feel encouraged that this rare disorder would not change my life. (Not everyone with ATN is so lucky; many are unable to work and live what they’d consider a ‘normal’ life. I feel so very fortunate.)
Years later, things are still good. Trigeminal Neuralgia typically affects just one side, but there are cases where it is bilateral. I am now bilateral, but my medication still works. I still follow my physician’s instructions if I have a flare, and with my daily prescription, and I follow-up on care as necessary. Rarely does my ATN get in the way of life, though I have an odd collection of scarves and high-neck hoodies to protect my face from too much wind or air conditioning, which are distinct triggers. Dental work, crunchy food, even putting on makeup can render me practically immobile on a bad day, but with caution and planning, those bad days are rare.
Not everyone gets it. Some people, those with no ATN or TN experience, have told me I’ll just have to suck it up. Others have suggested that the need for pain medication is ridiculous for a ‘weird’ or ‘invisible’ disorder. In the end, I’m okay with it all, as I have the support of my husband and my immediate family. The couple of times I’ve had to cancel plans, my friends have been wonderful about it.
I’ll come clean here, too. I don’t always explain it to people. Sometimes I’ve just said that I have a toothache. It’s not untrue, but it saves me from the questions that the real issue would bring. (ATN/TN is not a toothache, but the pain often presents itself in the teeth or jaw.) I don’t do it because I care that someone will lack sympathy, which has indeed happened; I do it because I want to not focus on it and I have confidence that the pain will be short-lived. Usually I am right!
Having a medical issue is bad enough, but when you wake up at night worried and have medication questions, who do you turn to? Now you can turn to Walgreens. Their new 24/7 Pharmacy Chat is always available to help you if/when you have prescription answers. This can be invaluable to someone with chronic or acute pain.
This post is sponsored by Walgreen’s, but the photos and story is my own.
Taking medication gets to be a routine, but even the best routines or habits can be broken. Life happens and you forget. The new Walgreens app provides a reminder to take your medication, which can stave off pain or problems from missing a dose. You can download the free Walgreen’s app here and take another step to creating healthy routines, including pharmacy chat, finding care and refilling your prescriptions. It’s a wake up call with a new positive spin!
Did you know that nearly 100 million Americans do not follow their prescription requirements correctly – either because of forgetfulness, inconvenience or another extenuating circumstance? Also, 33% of prescriptions are never filled. That’s crazy high when you think how prescriptions are done for the benefit of your health!
With ATN, I can’t afford to miss a dose. Even one missed pill can allow a flare-up to occur, and a flare can be mild, like a throbbing toothache, to so severe that I want to lay quietly in my room with ice on my face, hoping someone will remove the imaginary hot, stabbing poker from my face.
Those episodes keep me from my family. They make me cranky. They make me tired and they suck away my joy. I can’t leave the house, so I miss events. I work from home, but there’s no way to work when my face feels as though I’m being repeatedly poked with a cattle prod in the jaw.
In short, missing my medication won’t kill me, but it will make me feel about as painful as I can ever imagine. (And I’ve had a kidney stone and several babies, one without pain meds, so I am pretty solid with pain.) I avoid missing medication at all costs.
Whether or not you have a chronic condition, everyone’s been sick or injured, relying on some type of prescription or health regimen to recuperate. No one wants these things to intrude on our happiness and our lives, so we do what we can to prevent that. Can you think of a time that not following your health care regimen has resulted in a worsening situation? What motivates you to stay on top of your health care? Do you need a wake up call, too?
Download the Walgreen’s app to get your wake up call, and share the news with your family and friends, so they too can take advantage of the help provided. The Walgreen’s red phone is a game changer! Pick up the phone and answer the call!