The pain clinic

Following on from my appointment with my new favourite doctor, Dr Berkowitz, he does everything he says and writes to my GP, also making appointments for me with a physiotherapist and at the pain clinic. I like the physiotherapist. She is quiet but thorough and carefully presses the fibro points which are so painful. She gives me Pilates exercises to help strengthen my core and says she will see me in a month to see how I am getting on. She prints out copies of the exercises and carefully writes extra tips down as she understands I won’t remember a word she has said once I leave.

Two days later, I am back at the hospital to go to the pain clinic. I asked my GP what a pain clinic involves and she denies it is about giving me pain but offers me exciting options like acupuncture or hydrotherapy. These I like the sound of. The Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine, formerly the London Homeopathic Hospital, is a strange place. Sited in Great Ormond Street, it feels more like a GP practice as it’s just so low key and is the most un-hospital-like hospital I have ever been in. Most people going in and out seem to be in wheelchairs or walking with sticks so I feel a little cheeky walking in unaided on my own two feet. The pain clinic is tucked away on the ground floor and when I find it, it appears to be one lady sitting at a computer in a very small room. It says ‘Pain Clinic’ over the door so I ask her if I’m in the right place. “Yes” she says and takes my name. “Please take a seat” she says, pointing to a couple of chairs outside her office. I wait patiently and shortly, a very pale man appears from behind her chair and calls me in. We squeeze behind her chair and I discover there are a couple of other offices around a corridor at the other end of her small office. Whoever designed the spacing was demented. I don’t get the name of this doctor and I struggle to determine where he is from by his accent. I think he is Easter European but could be wrong. He is very pasty, though, with a pudgy, doughy kind of face and little round glasses. He is also very, very serious. He asks me lots of questions about my condition and reads copious notes that have obviously been made about me. I am sitting there waiting for him to start talking about acupuncture, hydrotherapy and other lovely treatments but he goes for the one I have been hoping won’t feature on the list. The pain psychologist. I once read something about a pain psychologist who worked with a woman and enabled her to visualise her pain as a tiger beneath her bed. In this way she managed to deal with her pain without using so many painkillers and it gave her a sense of control. Damn. This is not what I want. I want someone to DO something to take away my pain, to dunk me in a swimming pool and swish me about a bit or stick pins in me. I don’t want to think about my pain as a bloody tiger. I sigh. At the moment I am seeing a specialist oncology psychologist and cannot, ethically, see two psychologists at the same time. I sense he is keen for me to finish with the caner person and get on with the tiger-taming psychologist. Being examined when you have fibromyalgia is always interesting as doctors always prod you, fully clothes, in order to see which bits hurt. There are a whole raft of points which people without fibromyalgia won’t respond to but people with fibro will yelp at if they are pressed, even lightly. The doctor goes through the obligatory prodding process and says he concurs with the diagnosis but that he sees me as a highly functioning person with fibro. He demonstrates the measure by holding his hands apart, waggling one hand as those who come in on their hands and knees or by wheelchair and waggling the other hand to show where I am. I almost feel embarrassed and rather sorry I am not more disabled. But pain is very much a personal thing and mine is as valid as anyone else’s, even if I am at one end of the spectrum. He is going to wait until I have finished with my cancer psychologist and then will fix me up with one of his own chaps. As I leave, he gives me his hand which is soft and slightly damp. His handshake is not firm and I wonder if I hurt him with mine. If I did, it wasn’t deliberate.

In defiance of all the advice, I go and sit in the tiny cafe and drink a diet Coke and eat a KitKat, surrounded on all sides by people with obvious disabilities. Standing up is the usual trial. My whole body has seized up and I feel about 101 as I creak to my feet. Following the physio’s advice of shuffling my feet about before I stand helps but makes me look bizarre. OK, more bizarre. I make my way back to the tube station slowly and carefully, wondering exactly when that tiger is going to pounce.

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