“All I want for Christmas is my hormones,” I whined to my husband last month.
“Yeah,” I’m sure he said, “that’s all I want for Christmas, too.” I may be estrogen deprived, but I have superior hearing. And fairly good aim.
You might recall that I misplaced some important body parts last summer while snoozing in an operating room. My doctor was reassuring, though, and promised me I was better off without those defective organs. She said the hormones I was missing could be bought at the corner pharmacy for a fairly small amount of money.
She’s such a comedian.
After a couple of trial runs with one-size-fits-all estrogen, I realized that I am not, nor ever will be, an All. I am a Unique. But you can’t buy hormones for Uniques from Walgreens. No sirree. Instead, you have to make an appointment with a different kind of professional. Somebody most people, including medical folks, have never heard of. Someone called . . . a Compounding Pharmacist.
I have never felt more like a hippy.
It doesn’t matter, I was desperate. We were desperate. Look, you can’t just wipe out the complex program God built into a woman’s body—casually referred to as a reproductive system—and then throw a little estrogen at her and tell her to get on with her life.
She’ll take you out with a bazooka.
And here’s a little known fact, even by comedian doctors: woman cannot live by estrogen alone. Telling her she can is like expecting a car to go from zero to eighty in ten seconds flat, just because you put in a new battery. If it’s out of oil and gas, too, you’re not getting that Chevy out of the garage any time soon.
I didn’t know this before my surgery. Now I know enough to write a book. Or maybe a tiny little pamphlet.
Fortunately for me, my doctor told me she’d be happy to send me to a compounding pharmacist, and to let her know when I was ready. A couple of weeks later, my husband told me I was ready. He’s so intuitive.
I called my doctor’s office in mid November, hoping to have a brand new bag of hormones in my possession by the next week. Seven days. Remember that. Not since Titanic’s passengers were to told to ‘sit back and enjoy their trip’ have expectations ever been so submarined.
“What pharmacy would you like to use?” the young nurse asked. I didn’t know I had a choice. The staff my doctor employs is sweet as can be, but I’m convinced every single one of them graduated from high school last week. I have makeup older than they are. And not one of them knew any more about compounding pharmacies than I did. So I got a name, called the doctor’s office back, and spoke to a completely different nurse.
“Just a minute,” she interrupted. “Why do you need blood work for a pharmacist? Are they drawing your blood?”
I didn’t know who was drawing my blood. I just wanted somebody to do it and then give me a can of hormones. Was that too much to ask?
“Let me talk to the doctor,” she said, and put me on hold. When she returned she said I couldn’t go to the pharmacist I’d found. The one they asked me to locate. The one I’d already spoken with. Instead, my doctor preferred I use someone of her choice. Seems like they could have told me that in the first place.
I could read the illegible handwriting on the wall.
So I contacted the new pharmacist, got a long list of necessary blood work, and was referred back to my doctor. Here’s where I get confused—why was I the liaison between these two professionals? It took forty-eight hours just to get through all those phone calls. At that rate, all hopes of my husband ever having a balanced wife again were—well, actually he’s never had one.
I called my doctor’s office again.
“Please, please,” I begged the new confused nurse, who—big surprise—had never heard of a compounding pharmacist, “just let me come in and give you some of my blood so I can go buy hormones!” It was kind of creepy. I didn’t know if saying that made me feel more like a vampire or a drug addict.
“Well, the doctor has to write your blood work order,” she stalled. “Give us forty-eight hours and, when we have it, we’ll call you.”
Now, don’t get me wrong. I adore my doctor. I respect her judgment. I even like the way she painted the walls in the waiting room. But how is it possible that nine out of her ten nurses—who know how to take blood pressure and give injections—can’t remember a simple promise to call a desperate woman the minute her blood tests are ordered?
Four days later I played another round of Nurse Roulette and called to see if the order had materialized.
“Oh, yeah,” I was told. “It’s here waiting for you.”
Waiting for me. Like I was holding them up. I drove over to the doctor’s office right away since they said the phlebotomist was still there. But when I arrived ten minutes later, I was told she finished early and had just left.
“But you told me to come right over!” I exclaimed, tears filling my eyes and spilling onto the paperwork the nurse held hostage in her hands. “And here I am! Call her back! Stop her car! Give me the needle—I can probably find a vein!”
I think I scared them a little.
The next thing I knew, I was being ushered to a back room—far away from the terrified patients in the lobby—and suddenly a woman wearing a paisley coat and sunglasses set her purse down on the examining table and tied a giant rubber band around my arm. She didn’t look very happy.
She sucked out almost all the blood the pharmacist wanted. Then she said I’d have to come back the next week for one more blood draw—something about fasting first. Yet another little detail they could have mentioned before they yanked her out of the car she left running in the parking lot.
It was now Friday, a week before Thanksgiving, and ten days since inexperience waved a white flag and surrendered to red tape. The phlebotomist and I struck a bargain—I’d come back in three days, and she could go home to drink a glass of wine and forget all about her crummy job.
“We’ll give you a call when the results are in,” the young nurse said cheerfully before shoving me out the door. I’ll bet, I thought sarcastically, and headed home to punch out a frozen turkey. At least it couldn’t press charges.
I had a peaceful Thanksgiving, as well as a peaceful Black Friday, uninterrupted by a single pesky telephone call. It’s exactly what I should have wanted for the holidays. Finally, on Monday, two and a half weeks into the search for my very own personal hormone supply, I called Nurse Number Seven. Who found my blood work from last April, as well as last June, but was clueless about my recent blood draw.
And that is why normal, everyday Americans come up with conspiracy theories. Because there’s absolutely no reason on God’s green earth for all that confusion except this—the FDA has dispatched counterintelligence determined to sabotage my freedom of pharmaceutical choice.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
I sighed. Heavily. I think I even sobbed a little. Seemingly out of nowhere, my file suddenly appeared and the nurse spoke these five beautiful words –
“Your blood work is in.” Then she hesitated. “And you want me to send it to . . . a pharmacist?”
Honest to Pete. You can’t make this stuff up.
Tomorrow ~ And A Happy New Year
Photo courtesy of paparutzi's photostream @ http://www.flickr.com/photos/28396605@N00/2128165158