I’m no doctor but I find myself at my office desk going over some medical articles posted online that do nothing but intensify the pain stabbing my right cheek. I’ve made a self-diagnosis that I have a thing called trigeminal neuralgia. And if my Internet-inspired diagnosis is true, I’ve had it for two years now.
Learning about what I am going through is both excruciating and eye-opening. As I read each of the online articles describing the symptoms, my pain flashes like a video clip, confirming solidly that I’m smitten by this medical condition. The tingling lightning-bolt sensation, then the sudden jolts of pain that last for seconds, the depression that comes with the whole thing, the dumbfounded moments, the wrong diagnosis that involved a dentist boring through the patient’s molars—those are the exact same things I have been experiencing. It’s as if I’m going over a narrative of someone who is seeing my condition as vividly as it happens.
I’ve spent about four hours poring over articles and testimonies from patients, as well as watching YouTube videos about a possible cure. And then it hits me: Where do I go next? That thought prods me to search for online communities or support groups for people suffering this ailment. I sift through Google to localize my search, but I see not one online community in the Philippines that is dedicated to this condition. It makes me wonder: Am I the only one in this country of 7,100 islands afflicted with this weird case? That’s not comforting.
But I’m still looking. I’ve tried to look up the name of a lady featured in one of the episodes of “Salamat Doc” that discussed trigeminal neuralgia, but I haven’t been able to pin her down. I’m hoping that finding someone who is or has been in the same boat I’m in would spur hope in me to at least look forward to possibly getting by, if not totally getting rid of this pain that’s ripping me apart.
They call it the “suicide disease.” Trigeminal neuralgia is so painful that sufferers are driven to take their own lives. I’m not sure if there are statistics out there to back this, but it’s mentioned in almost all of the online articles and videos discussing the condition. If that’s true, I’m fearful that my own pain threshold might not be able to handle it.
In my almost 25 years of existence, I have never been involved in an incident that required any major medical intervention. For one, I dread doctors mainly due to my impression that they bring forth necessary but at the same time traumatic pain. Plus the mere sight of blood makes me puke. This medical ignorance is eating me up and isn’t helping me in setting aside negative thoughts about any possible medical procedure I may be required to undergo.
I’m now in the blaming stage. I blame my poverty. I blame my parents for being as medically ignorant and as cash-strapped as everyone else. Had we had money, we would surely have received the medical attention those big bucks could buy. I blame the government for not putting up enough funding, education drives, and clinics. I blame it for the insufficient budget for the health care system and proper training of doctors to handle this condition. I’m also blaming myself for not always eating the right food, for not drinking a lot of water, and for not researching on the matter right after I felt the initial pain. There’s the world to blame, but now what? I’m still as clueless.
I’ve e-mailed a neurosurgeon for an appointment. I’ve joined a United States-based online support group, but it has yet to confirm my membership, I’ve also e-mailed an acupuncture clinic asking how much I should pay for treatment with therapy. And I’ve written this piece. My message should be clear: Please let me know if you are or know someone suffering this same illness. I’d appreciate a shoulder and a common denominator with someone right now.
Enteng Tavares, 24, is a training coordinator for an international travel company headquartered in Bellevue, Washington. His working motto is: “Do it right the first time!” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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