Seven weeks ago, I got a letter from my sleep doctor’s office. Bluntly, it told me I better get in to see him, or they would stop filling my prescriptions. I called immediately, and today was the earliest appointment available. Given the tone of the letter, I checked if an appointment today would suffice. The individual assured me that things would be fine, as long as I had this appointment on the books. And, she was right. I got my July prescriptions in the mail, and my Xyrem was renewed without any hassle. Now, I have been wondering what my doctor would say, since I was basically 5 months late in coming into my appointment. Also, given my current state of mind, I was not completely sure what I would hope to discuss with him. I am handling things well, but I certainly would be open to exploring a different med, or looking at how my days tend to ebb and flow.
Invariably, I was ten minutes late to my appointment. A nice physician’s assistant brought me back and did the initial intake. I told her that things were about as good as I thought they could be. I did not go into significant detail because I figured that I would have to say things twice. My BP was a tad high 130/90, and my weight still remains far too high. Their scale had me at 198, and I was 195 at home this morning (wearing fewer items of clothing). I did mention that I might want to discuss a different med, but also noted that NuVigil might not be the right direction since I had a terrible time with Provigil. I mentioned the relative success of my two medication holidays. She then left the room to let my doctor know that I was ready.
She then returned less than 5 minutes later. My sleep doctor felt that “as long as things are working, we should not switch meds.” He also told her that unless I “needed” to see him, I was free to go. Now, I debated briefly about asking to stay so I could at least see him, but quickly decided that there would be little purpose in doing that. After all, I was still unsure as to what I hoped to discuss with him, and I was late for the appointment. So, I gathered my things and took my leave of the office. In the ultimate irony, the physician’s assistant ask ME when I was supposed to return. I informed her that I had stretched my previous six month check-in by five months. I then said six months might make sense. And, as happened the LAST time I was in that office, the receptionist informed me that they do not schedule February appointments now. I need to call in November.
Of course, my PWN brain managed to put off that previous November phone call until I got the stern letter. I also was a tad flabbergasted that after the nature of that correspondence, I was not even SEEN by my doctor. I am sure that the physician’s assistant is a sharp young woman, but she is not a specialist licensed to practice sleep medicine. It also does not help my mood that I did have time when she left the room to flip through the clinic’s latest newsletter. While they “might” have cover Dr. Mignot’s ground-breaking discovery in their Spring newsletter, the Summer one that was in the room had NOTHING about narcolepsy in it. It had lots on obstructive sleep apnea and lots on restless leg syndrome, but nothing about this wacko disease of mine. Of course, the clinic only employs pulmonary doctors, so I should not expect much. Except I do! If a clinic is supposed to treat narcolepsy, shouldn’t they know something about it? Now, my doctor is a good guy, and he does know a decent amount about narcolepsy, but I think today is strong indication that I need to find a new doctor/clinic. Unfortunately, there are not other options, at least not good ones. Most other places in the Twin Cities are also pulmonary clinics. The one that is not tends to have a ridiculously narrow view of narcolepsy, meaning that they might actually tell me that I do NOT have narcolepsy. The added complication is that if I go somewhere else, they might be worse and could possible change my drugs in ways that make it impossible for me to work.
Sadly, I don’t feel like I have any good choices here. I can stay where I am, continue to figure out on my own (and with my many PWN friends) how to handle this condition, and ensure that I can at least receive drugs that seem to work for me. The downside is that I might not EVER talk to my “doctor” again. And, if I do “need” to see him, will he honestly have genuine suggestions for me? Of course, leaving presents the possibility of finding a great doctor who can help me better understand myself and my disease, but that does not feel likely. In fact, I am honestly more worried that my current options (other than my actual clinic and doctor) would likely do more harm than good. The idea of having to re-tell my story (or even to be re-tested) while possibly being disparaged because my diagnosis is narcolepsy without cataplexy (or possibly mild/abnormal cataplexy which the guidelines still call “without cataplexy”). In fact, if that happened, it might be far more disrupting than just the mental stress. I might lose the meds I have, and if I can’t work, I would also likely lose the small chance that I would have of a disability situation (if I don’t have “narcolepsy,” I have some condition of unknown etiology which would mean in legal terms that people think I am lazy).
Fortunately, I am not freaking out over this, but I do need to ponder a next step. I am not sure where to start. I know that there is an excellent neurologist in Saint Cloud, but have been remiss to try to see him because I doubt that insurance will cover it. And, I have no idea of how I would prove to my insurance company that I can’t get proper care in the Twin Cities when many other PWNs “do.” I actually know that they don’t, but we are such a small population that it is easy to make blanket statements, particularly for large companies. Perhaps I am most frustrated by the fact that this brief stop in my doctor’s office has added yet one more level of stress to my already growing anxiety of late. I truly do not have the time or the energy to commit to the process of searching for a new doctor. I also know that I hate the idea of “popping” into this office once or twice a year to simply pretend that my doctor checked on me.