Posts Tagged Doctor
I finally had my appointment with my rheumatologist today after a week of going through potential outcomes. I brought my mom with me to have another pair of ears and the support.
The diagnosis was immediate: “You have rheumatoid arthritis.”
I can’t say it didn’t suck to hear it like that. I’d expected a little bit of mystery, deliberation, maybe a “you’re OK.” But I also can’t say I was surprised. I nodded as he went over the reasons why he was sure – positive for rheumatoid factor and anti CCP, bone erosions, clear inflammation.
Then he asked questions that shed a light on ALL of the symptoms I’d been feeling but hadn’t linked to my “sports injury.” Have I been tired? Down? Depressed? Experienced insomnia? Anxiety? Stomach issues? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes, yes and yes. Majorly. Dry eyes and mouth? No (something I don’t have, yeah!).
I walked away from the appointment with a diagnosis, a plan and an odd sense of hope and relief. My rheumy believes we can get this into “remission” in six months. My rheumy says I’ll be able to have a family in the future if I choose to. My rheumy says that we’ll minimize permanent damages. That there are a lot of good drug options.
So, of course I left the appointment sad, with a million additional questions and overwhelmed at my new drug plan – A cancer drug? Giving myself injectables? But I was also relieved to be doing something and to have a name to put toward everything I’d been feeling.
I promptly filled my prescription for methotrexate, prednisone and folic acid and started the process for getting insurance approval for Enbrel.
I went to happy hour with my mom and close friend, nervously going over the prescription info and bringing my friend up-to-date.
And then, with a ton of trepidation (Is this severe of a treatment really necessary? What about the side effects? Will it make a difference?), I popped those six itty-bitty MTX pills and began my new life. A new life on drugs, but also a new life on the pathway to some sort of relief and recovery.
I had one week before my rheumatologist appointment, meaning one week to Google every related illness and RA horror story known to man. Cancer? Lupus? Rheumatoid Arthritis? Something worse? Permanent disability, 10-15 years off your life, systemic disease spreading, scary drugs, high medical bills. I read it all.
It was probably one of the scariest weeks of my life. I cried myself to sleep and came to terms with the worst case scenarios. High medical bills? I was about to turn 29 and loved my apartment, but I could move back home with my parents to save money. Disability? This one gave me shivers, but I could deal. I could work from home some days and adapt as necessary. Not being able to have children? This one sucked. It was a hard one to think about, but I even made peace with perhaps never having children of my own.
On Thursday, one day before my appointment, I got the call from the lab. “We got your results, and based on your blood tests, which show you’ve tested high for Rheumatoid Factor and Anti-CCP, we believe you have Rheumatoid Arthritis.”
“Shit,” I thought. “Um, OK, um…Thanks,” I said. I’d read, I’d mentally prepared myself for a range of diseases and this one wasn’t as bad as some of the possibilities, but it still stung. It still ripped me apart and made me wonder, “Now what?”
Apparently “now what” is spending the night at my parents like a kid and getting all my tears out, so that I wouldn’t cry at my appointment the next day. I was DETERMINED not to cry at the doctor’s. And, guess what? I didn’t. But that appointment’s the topic for another blog.
I’m not exactly sure what my final straw was. My right foot – my “sports injury” – had flared up again. I’d spent an extremely frustrating ski weekend in extreme pain, hobbling up and down stairs, my feet so stiff they wouldn’t walk properly. I even told my family, “I feel like I have arthritis. Why am I such a gimp right now?” The response of course was, “You don’t have arthritis. You’re too young to have arthritis.”
So I popped some Advil, stuffed my angry feet into ski boots and carried on. But after that weekend I finally made the call, I booked an appointment with an podiatrist, sure she would find a stress fracture.
She remarked at my swollen feet and asked me which one hurt. “The right one,” I said. “Well, actually both.” I knew it was odd, but I explained to her my theory of how I must run funny and would hurt one foot and then over compensate with the other, causing both to be swollen and painful.
So the doctor took an X-Ray of my right foot. I sighed in relief as I waited for the results. Maybe she would tell me to stop working out and I’d be in a boot for a month, but at least I would finally be healed. Then I could get on with my life and stop dealing with this stupid pain.
Disappointed is the word I would have to use to describe my emotions when my doctor told me, “Good news! You don’t have a stress fracture!”
I was really hoping for an injury. One I could stick a cast on and heal and get better.
My disappointment turned into confusion when she proceeded to show me the X-Ray of my stress fracture-free foot. An X-Ray that showed that bone in my little toe had eroded. She explained, as lightheartedly as possible, that this could be a sign of lupus or Rheumatoid Arthritis and that I should get blood work done and make a follow-up appointment with a rheumatologist.
Excuse me? Did she not hear me? I was just there for a sports injury. Something I did running. Was this really necessary?
But more than denial, I honestly have to say I was scared. I was scared because deep down I knew that something wasn’t right, I just wasn’t sure what was wrong.
I went to a work networking event that night and told my partner and friend about the trip to the doctor. I heard my voice shake a little as I told him what they were running lab tests for. That’s when I understood how afraid I was. That’s when it felt real. My eyes welled up, and he gave me a hug, you’ll be fine. I nodded, while internally making a list of all the things I would have to Google when I got home.