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Checking Off Another Box On My Healthcare Bingo Card


My grandmother loved bingo. Up until the last year of her life, when she could no longer talk and had difficulty walking, she was a regular at the local Eagle’s club for their weekly game.

Living in the south now, I rarely hear about bingo, but I think about it often. In fact, on every trip to the doctor, which is more frequent than I would like, I can’t help but think of my grandmother next to me with her dobber or chips at the ready.

Hold on, grandma. We’re one square closer to winning.

brown and white bear plush toy
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Bingo and doctors

Now you may be wondering how bingo connects with a visit to the doctor. If you have a chronic illness, you probably already know what I mean, but if not, here goes.

Every time you see a new doctor, and likely once a year for your routine doctors, you’re handed a stack of papers to complete.

This morning, I had an appointment with my primary care doctor. There were six pages to keep me occupied this time.

I think the papers are more about distracting you from the long wait times rather than gathering information, but I digress.

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While most of the papers have to do with HIPAA, privacy policies, or in-case-of-emergency contact information, there’s always one page related to health history.

I always hope I have enough ink in my pen.

Migraines? Check.

Arthritis? Check.

Bipolar Disorder? Check.

Gastroparesis? Check.

Check. Check. Check. Check.

To create a little fun in my world, and when you’re a spoonie (living with a chronic illness) you have to create fun wherever you can, I decided to start referring to these checklists as my healthcare bingo cards.

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When you have a chronic illness you have to look for humor everywhere you can. Here's how you can relate it to bingo. | #mentalillness #spoonies #chronicillness
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Going for a full card

When you play bingo, the rules can change from game to game. Most often, you are playing for a straight line either horizontal, vertical, or diagonal. To switch things up, you might play for four corners, a letter shape like “S” or “L”, or full borders.

The last game of the night is frequently a full-card game. To win that final pot you have to fill every spot on your card.

This morning’s visit gave me a new checkbox.

New pain

For weeks now, I’ve been experiencing increasing pain. It’s most intense where I’m in contact with something, such as a chair, the floor, or my mattress.

The burning sensation, similar to walking barefoot on hot pavement, attacks the bottoms of my feet while walking or standing, my arms resting on armrests, the tops of my legs if the cat jumps up on my lap, and so on.

Hoping that this new pain was something I was either doing or not doing, my doctor and I had a long conversation about it this morning.

The good news? (Sarcasm, in case you missed it.) I have widespread neuropathy.

Likely another result of having Familial Mediterranean Fever, the constant inflammation created by the condition has created this new complication.


More good news? In addition to checking off a new box on my health condition bingo card, I get to add one, if not two, new boxes to my medication bingo card. Apparently, there weren’t enough colors in my pillbox already.

And who said having a chronic illness isn’t fun?

Here’s a little fun with chronic illness in poem form: Oh Bathroom Floor, Save Me From This Spoonie Life

Knowledge is power

In my experience, the most important part of coping with any health condition is to learn as much as you can about it.

When I was first diagnosed with gastroparesis, I was told I could never again eat meat, nuts, or fresh fruits and vegetables. By educating myself and tracking how my body processed certain foods, I’ve figured out ways to eat most of those things in moderation.

This new diagnosis will be no different. Up until today, I thought that neuropathy was a condition only experienced by those with diabetes or very advanced in age. Nope, wrong again.

Hello, Google. Let’s learn about this new foe.

I may feel terrible, but at least I’m one square closer to a full-card bingo.

Until next time, keep fighting.

A poem about chronic illness.

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  1. I love this bingo card metaphor. I actually do what’s probably dumb….I don’t list everything. Why? Because I’m lazy. Also, let’s say I’ve got a sinus infection, does it really matter that I list all of my surgeries? None of them were sinus related. Lol

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