Jewish Journal

Five Days a Week

by Susan Esther Barnes

September 3, 2014 | 1:30 am

Photo by Susan Esther Barnes

A couple of weeks ago I went to the doctor about an annoying but not life threatening issue, and the treatment she prescribed didn’t resolve it. So I sent her an email, and she replied with a new diagnosis and suggested a new prescription. She said I would need to use the new medication “five days a week for three weeks.”

Now, “five days a week” sounded odd to me. I’m used to instructions like, “twice a day,” or “every eight hours,” or even “every other day,” but I wasn’t sure exactly what “five days a week” would look like. After giving it some thought, I figured it must mean you use it for three days, then skip a day, then use it for two days, then skip a day, then repeat from the beginning.

When I went to the pharmacy to pick up the prescription, they said the pharmacist wanted to talk to me about it, since I hadn’t used it before. As I was waiting in line for the pharmacist, I heard her talking to the person in front of me.

I know you’re supposed to stand far enough back so you give the person in front of you some privacy, and you’re not supposed to listen. I was standing on the designated spot, trying to mind my own business. But I heard the pharmacist say, “five days a week,” and I thought, “Aha! This must be common. The person in front of me is on the same medication schedule as I am. Surely, the pharmacist can confirm to me how, exactly, I’m supposed to do that.”

When my turn came, I stepped up to the counter, listened to what the pharmacist had to say, and asked her, “Five days a week. How exactly do I do that?” She stared at me a moment, as if she had never heard such a question in her life.

“Well,” she said, “you can take it every other day, but that would only be four days a week.”

“Exactly.” I replied, “So should I do three days on, one off, two on, one off?”

She thought for a while. “You could take it on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, then…” but then she trailed off. She started and stopped a couple of times. All the while, I was thinking, “Why is she starting on Monday when today is Friday? I’m not waiting until Monday to start the medication. And how is it that nobody has ever asked her this question before?”

Finally, she gave up and said, “Oh, just take it Monday through Friday and skip the weekends.”

I looked at her a moment, said, “Thank you,” took the bag with my prescription, and left. And I am taking my medication for three days, then skipping a day, then taking it for two, then skipping a day,  then repeating that pattern for three weeks. Because that seems better to me than skipping two days in a row, since it seems to me it spreads out the medication in my system more evenly.

And I didn’t even broach the subject of why there were 20 doses in the bag.

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Susan Esther Barnes is a religious Reform Jew who can regularly be seen greeting people at her synagogue before services. She is a founding member of her synagogue’s chevra...

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