They took my ibuprofen away from me. Personally, I wouldn't call myself an addict, but I do admit to driving forty miles to an all-night Super Walmart before just to buy a two dollar bottle of the wonder drug. That little adventure, out in the wee hours of the morning dodging Saturday night drunks, taught me a lesson. From that day forward I always made it a point to have two or three bottles in the cabinet. I still have a couple of bottles. Sure could use a handful of ibuprofen right now, but no. I have something to prove to myself. I am not an ibuprofen addict!
This all started fifteen years ago after spending a summer day painting the trim on the house. I spent the entire night rocking back and forth on the couch, hunched over, tears in my eyes from a pain searing through my shoulders like I'd never experienced before. The next morning I was waiting for the old country doctor when he pulled up in his Ford pickup.
"Well, you're paying for your sins," he teased as he gently gyrated my shoulder in a circular motion, "you're not a young buck anymore. You have discovered the joys of arthritis. Ibuprofen will probably manage it. Run down to the Walmart and buy a bottle."
So began my relationship with the ibuprofen. It worked fairly well for fifteen years, failing me only when a strong cold front came barreling through or when I got a bit too overzealous trying to do my 'manly' chores, like use a screwdriver. But along about last October, something changed. The pills no longer fought off the pain. Nor was the pain just in my shoulders and hands...it began to haunt every joint of my body. Reluctantly, I made a doctor's appointment.
The old country doctor long gone by now, I explained my situation to the doctor who had replaced him. He scribbled a prescription while disinterestedly listening to my whining. Handing me the script, he sternly cautioned me to stop taking the ibuprofen. I became leary of this new medicine when the pharmacist handed me a thirty day supply and charged me a buck fifty. This couldn't work, I thought. Walmart brand ibuprofen costs two dollars a bottle. Two weeks later I stopped taking the prescription and went back to my ibuprofen. Another two weeks and I was back at the doctor's office.
"Those pills you gave me don't work! I still ache all over my body." I spewed, squinting my eyes at him.
"They're not supposed to make you feel better. They stop the damage to your joints. Do you want to feel better? I can give you a steroid called Prednisone. It has very harmful side effects so I will only prescribe one week's supply." he drew his pad from the white coat and scribbled on it, "Here, you can feel better for one week. I'm not doing you any favors! And I will make you an appointment with an arthritis specialist but it may be four months before you can get in to see him."
The following morning I woke up feeling like a twenty-year-old. There was not a single ache in my entire body. I leaped from the bed and threw on my clothes. I hadn't done either in a very long time. Throughout the day my mind began plotting on how I could get my hands on more Prednisone. I desperately needed to find a drug dealer. This stuff was far better than ibuprofen! For the next seven days I did things I hadn't done in months. I could open a bottle of Coke. I could rip open a bag of chips with my bare hands. I could button a shirt...and my blue jeans. Yes, I could even get up off the potty without a single groan. But just as the doctor promised, my seven days of painless bliss was over too soon, and I'd not found a drug dealer who could hook me up with more Prednisone. Woefully, I settled in to wait the four months until my appointment with the specialist.
"You have severe rheumatoid arthritis," he spoke in a foreign accent as his fingers gingerly massaged the knuckles of my hand, "There are many new drugs to treat this, but I am going to prescribe the number one drug for you. It's called METH..."
Well, there was more to the name, but my ears perked up when he said METH. Heck, even I could probably find a drug dealer who could get his hands on meth.
"Methotrexate. It is a cancer drug..."
My eyebrows raised and my eyes bugged out.
"No, it doesn't mean you have cancer, well you may. I don't know. I am an arthritis specialist, not a cancer doctor. But, this drug is often prescribed in low doses for rheumatoid arthritis. It doesn't work immediately. In fact, it may take several weeks. It is very important you do not take ibuprofen with this drug. I will prescribe a painkiller for those bad days...but whatever you do...no ibuprofen!"
Well, today is one of those bad days. Those painkillers sit in the cabinet right next to my ibuprofen. I have read the warning label. It is an opioid. The warning says a single dose could cause death if taken incorrectly. Probably when mixed with ibuprofen, I figure. My eyes dart from the bottle of ibuprofen to the painkillers and back again. I settle back in front of my laptop and Google, 'Black Market Prednisone.'
Canada! Yes! They have Viagra, too. Gotta go, I've found a whole new adventure here...