“…this stuff has to come off the market.”
An Introduction by Ann Blake-Tracy
This is Marge’s story – a follow up story to the months and months of trauma brought on by three weeks of Paxil and a dose of Robitussin. (The combination produces Serotonin Syndrome.) For Marge this produced a movement disorder and caused her hands to swell to the point she could no longer work. She was subsequently given a diagnosis of Scleraderma. She never recovered from this toxic serotonin reaction – the first injury. After many months of suffering she was told she had to have a breast removed.
In this letter she takes the story from there to tell of the horrors of a second SSRI drug-induced injury that in the end cost her life this time.
Marge passed away several months after this letter was written leaving her husband and two daughters. She was a wonderful and incredible woman who had a brilliant sense of humor that shines through her story. Marge wanted her experience to be a lesson for others. Please heed her warning.
She would ask now as I continue to ask, “HOW MANY MORE HAVE TO DIE?”
I hope that you are well. I am so grateful to you for all that you have done.
I would like to brief you on the past 3 months because I think that it is so important for you to know. Perhaps the only reason I was placed here on this earth was to screw up with antidepressant medications so as to add more fuel to your fire. I promise to be as brief as possible, though this is a good one.
As of this past spring, the psychiatrist I was working with prescribed Effexor and lorazipam. I just could not recover from the last medication reaction and my depression was the worst it had ever been. I had been working with this very compassionate psychiatrist for almost a year, and although we hadn’t found any medication that worked, none of them seemed to be making me ill. I tolerated Effexor at low doses (37mg) and seemed to be responding so he raised it to almost 200mg by July. I developed a cough. Strange! I had never had a morning cough before. But at 200mg of Effexor + Lorazipam, who cared? 🙂 The cough became severe rather quickly, along with substernum chest pain. The bottoms of my lungs felt heavy and full. I kept remarking to the psychiatrist that I couldn’t sneeze because I couldn’t take in enough air. He reminded me that I didn’t like medications, so this was probably my imagination. He encouraged me to go to my family physician if I wasn’t feeling well, but I knew that this would just result in a prescription for Robitussin and I wasn’t about to play that game again. I was too drugged to think straight anyway, so I just slept the entire summer away. Even sent my family to California without me so that I could sleep in peace.
By September I knew that I was in trouble. The cough was now terribly frightening to my family and constant. It was spasmodic, and came from my toes. I couldn’t sneeze at all and felt generally lousy. So, I started to take myself off of the medication, but slowly, because my psychiatrist was very much against this and I was as frightened of rebound depression as anything else.
September 29th I was scheduled for implant surgery. This, I was told, was a simple surgery. One night in the hospital and one week to recover. My chest was still not anywhere near right, though it had improved. I was now on only 37mg. of Effexor once again, and the situation was correcting itself, though slowly. I was walking regularly in an effort to clean out my lungs. By now, I had also personally investigated the side effects of this drug, which of course include frequent coughing, substernum chest pain and congestive heart failure. But, as the doctors have told me over and over again in the past 3 months, “They never see this.” – There are none so blind as those we call M.D.
So I went in for surgery, September 29th, and was not doing well after the operation. An hour after being sent home by a hospital that routinely dismissed me, I was raced back to our local hospital because I couldn’t breathe. Congestive heart failure. Into ICU I went where 15 pounds of excess fluid was pumped out of my body. (I am only 5’1″ tall). Everything began to return to normal, oxygen levels, etc., but the nasty cough continued and the pulmonologist saw some strange lines on my x-rays that bothered him. So he sent me for a CATSCAN. POW! The next day, my family physician calls the hospital to inform my husband that I had lung cancer in the lower lobes of both lungs, inoperable, and that I had a tumor in my spine. My husband tearfully delivered the news to me. My children arrived at the hospital shortly thereafter and we all cried the tears of impending doom.
After being stuck in ICU for a week, due to a weekend where no doctors were available and difficulties in scheduling my tests, I demanded to go home. A week of solitary confinement, sitting on this kind of news, fresh out of a surgery which was painful, was enough for me. We immediately scheduled an appointment with the recommended oncologist, who told me I had a 70/30 chance to live and he wanted an immediate biopsy of my spine. By now I had taken myself off of the drugs completely, but of course I was still in shock and just following instructions. Fine, a biopsy of my spine, just tell me when and I’ll be there.
With this, we left for a weekend in Boston so that my daughter could look at colleges. I was in a stupor and still fighting with a miserable cough and a sore breast implant.
Upon my return, I received two calls. One call was from the radiologist at the hospital. Apparently, this “tumor” in my spine was way too tiny for him to biopsy. I don’t even think that you can really say it is a tumor. Maybe a lesion. Who knows? I have since had a bone scan and there is no bone cancer. Major misdiagnosis. I also received a call from my original breast surgeon, who was enraged with all of this. He told me the breast cancer that I had does not do this and that whatever was in my lungs was most likely not cancer. He named several other things that it could be and for the first time, we learned that cancer cannot be diagnosed from a CATSCAN. You mean, I might not be dying?? What a novel idea.
With this, I went to my cosmetic surgeon for a checkup. To her great dismay, she discovered that the implant was trying to escape – a very unusual occurrence. I knew that I had been steadily coughing it out, but of course, nobody listens to me. Nevertheless, I was told to lie flat on my back until we could determine if the implant could be saved. All further oncologist appointments were postponed. For almost 2 months I lay here on my back, thinking that I was probably dying while coughing my brains out, in an effort to save an implant that wasn’t going to do me much good if, indeed, I had bilateral lung cancer. Ann, please stop me at any point and help me to make sense out of this. Are these guys entirely insane?
So, the weeks are going by and I am getting better and better. Even lying on my back, with the help of acupuncture and my naturopathic physician, the cough was clearing up. This, I strongly suspected, was not the pattern for lung cancer. Still, nobody would listen to me (except the naturopathic community), and nobody would acknowledge the written side effects of the drug I had been taking. The new oncologist that I was now seeing (how could the other oncologist have given me a 70/30 chance to live when he didn’t even know if I had cancer and if I did have cancer, what type of cancer did I have?) only wanted a lung biopsy. Apparently the CATSCAN was pretty ugly. This new and improved oncologist admitted that he had no idea what was in my lungs, but whatever was there, there was a lot of it and he wanted it biopsied. I begged to differ. The bottoms of both of my lungs had been under water all summer. Most likely there were stalactites and stalagmites growing in there. The point is that I was getting better, had just experienced a surgery gone wrong and a week in ICU. There was no way anybody was going to touch this body again! If my lungs were filled with that much cancer, I should be exhibiting some signs of illness, and other than a disappearing cough, I was fine. Nobody was listening to me and I was called a “naughty girl” for having an opinion.
So now it is almost Christmas. My breast continues to heal around the implant though at a painfully slow pace. We are waiting for fresh new skin that is strong enough to hold this water bag in place. I am still bandaged and haven’t had a shower since September. This whole experience has been so (pardon me) depressing, all because of an antidepressant drug that I shouldn’t have been on in the first place and should certainly not have been permitted to have surgery while taking. Can you say “drug interaction?” Jerks! I did submit to the bone scan, eventually, and all is well there. But my lungs continue to heal, I walk regularly, I am physically doing well and still they torment me with wanting a biopsy which I simply will not permit. It holds a risk of a collapsed lung – no big deal to them, but I think that I’ve had enough. I have only a small cough left, though I know that my lungs were injured by the Effexor and am waiting patiently for them to heal as best they can.
The effects of the original medication reaction are quite minimal at this point. I can take a walk, though I know that my muscles and ligaments are not normal and I have to watch not to overdo. They get sore. This is the first year, since the original reaction, that I can tolerate long sleeves. Up to this point, I couldn’t wear anything on my arms. They were extremely sensitive. My hands are permanently damaged, though fully functional. They are full of scar tissue from having been swollen for so long, and that renders them uncomfortable. My fingers have a bend to them and I can’t make a full fist. Otherwise, you wouldn’t know there was anything wrong. At a glance, they almost look normal. But they will never feel normal again, and that is unfortunate.
At this point, I am hoping to return to work in January – just 8 hours per week, but it’s a start. I am on no medication and never will be again. My psychiatrist refuses to inform the Drug Company that all of this happened. Without a biopsy, he refuses to draw any conclusions and I guess he assumes that this was all just a major coincidence. What a disappointment I will be to all of them when I get well.
Ann, this stuff has to come off the market. Humanity is not any more ready for this than it is for atomic weapons. I have now been victimized twice, not because of the medication itself (which is bad enough), but because the doctors refuse to acknowledge the side effects of the drugs even when they are tap-dancing in front of their own eyes. Personally, I have no idea how I will ever return to the care of any allopathic physician. For now, they appear to be the enemy.
Please keep me in your prayers and I will do the same for you.
Years 2000 and Prior
This is Survivor Story number 62.
Total number of stories in current database is 96