Archive for October, 2013
Putting your life in someone else’s hands is one of the hardest things patients are asked to do. We have no choice but to place our faith in the abilities and opinions of other people.
Sure, we can mitigate risk and make ourselves feel better by doing loads of fear-inducing Google research or seeking a second opinion. But, in the end, you choose your doctor and you move forward.
I recently read an op-ed in the NY Times about the way we make decisions in the medical sphere. It brought up some interesting points. First, we tend to trust authority figures, including doctors, without question. This is especially true when we’re frightened and vulnerable. And who isn’t when dealing with a scary, life-altering diagnosis? This can be dangerous since as many as one in five diagnoses are wrong (according to the article, which didn’t quote the source).
What’s more, we tend toward optimism, filtering in only the information we want to hear. I believe this can be a highly beneficial strategy of coping. After all, optimism, even in the face of a dismal diagnosis, can keep you feeling strong and keep the depression that effects up to one-third of patients with chronic disease at bay. But there’s a risk to the optimism bias, which is that you may be ignoring potential lifestyle risks or bad news, leading to decisions that may hurt you in the long run.
So how do you keep a clear head and move forward confident in the abilities of your chosen doctor? Well, for one, you don’t put your blinders on simply because you made a choice. The treatment you’re on now may not be the one that will be best for you a year from now. New treatments come out and sometimes our bodies begin to reject past treatments. Only you, not your doctor, can be responsible for noticing the changes in your symptoms. You can listen to your gut about what’s working and you can follow research and bring new treatment ideas to the table.
There’s more you can do to remain confident in your treatment. You can always seek second opinions for big treatment changes. You can bring in another set of ears to appointments so that when your emotions are running high and you’re hearing not-so-great news, you have another person to interpret what the doctor said later.
When you’re doing all that, you have nothing left but your best option, your best guess, and faith in your doctor’s treatment. And a healthy dose of optimism, of course.
My boyfriend likes to tell me he’s proud of the way I’ve handled my illness. He says he’s proud of how I’m able to give myself shots, go in for regular blood tests and doctor’s appointments, and just handle all my medical stuff.
There is something so powerful in those words: I’m so proud of you. When you’re a kid, you hopefully get to hear your parents tell you their proud. But as an adult, how often do you really get to hear those words? Not nearly enough.
And man, it feels good to hear him say, “I’m proud of you.” Sure, there’s this voice of protest that wants to tell him that it’s strange to be proud of someone for doing what they have to do. For me, it doesn’t seem like I have a choice in the matter. I’ve been dealt a less than ideal hand. Who hasn’t in one way or another? I deal. Should I really be proud of myself for that?
So to all of you guys dealing with a chronic illness or a family member with a chronic illness, I want to tell you I’m proud of you. The path you’re on isn’t easy. It may seem that you’re just doing what you have to do to survive, but you’re juggling more than people ought to. You’re handling a really ungraceful illness with grace, and I’m proud of you.
Well, my running and office life have once again been sidelined by my health. For the fourth time since getting my wisdom teeth out in June, I’m sitting at home, swollen, bored, exhausted, and on antibiotics and pain meds (oh, and off my RA drugs to let the antibiotics do their job).
The first time was being swollen for about a month after getting the teeth removed. The second two times were when blood started collecting in my right jaw – a hematoma or blood tumor. That happened twice, people! Each time involved making an incision in my gumline/inner cheek under local anesthesia, draining the blood, undergoing antibiotics, and giving it time and rest to make sure it healed.
I’ve been totally fine and hematoma/jaw swelling free for five blissful weeks.
Then, this last weekend I had subtle, sporadic pain in my left ear. I was busy having a blast at a wedding, so I ignored it. Sunday night, I had some pain in my lower left jaw. I noted it, but went to bed.
Then, Monday morning I woke up to one half chipmunk cheek. Whhhhhhyyyyyyy?????
Of course, the oral surgeon who I had been doing follow up care with was out of the office Monday, so I went to a new dentist who ruled out a tooth infection and put me on antibiotics.
I spoke to my marvelous rheumatology nurse at least four times, trying to determine if it could be related to Rheumatoid Arthritis. The short answer is, yes, it could, but it probably isn’t.
So Tuesday I went back to my oral surgeon. He ruled out a hematoma or an infection, but numbed me up, sliced in, drained the area, “smoothed” the bone, and added a “drain” in my gumline to prevent fluid from building in my jaw again. Fun stuff, let me tell you. Apparently, he believes my body was reacting to a stray bone fragment left over from getting my wisdom teeth removed. Great, so could this happen spontaneously for years??
Since Tuesday, I’ve been taking my antibiotics, managing the pain with Percocet and IBProfen, and WAITING for the swelling to go down so I can look and feel like myself again. I’m still waiting.
I’m going in to see my oral surgeon tomorrow to hopefully get the drain out and get more answers. In the meantime, cabin fever is setting in because I’m supposed to be relaxing. Though good for blog posts (as in, I actually find myself writing them), this is pretty bad for sanity.
I’d like to ask you RAers if anyone has experienced lower jaw swelling related to their RA? What was it like and how was it treated?