What a Year a Difference Makes

My medical genes have always left a bit to be desired.

Both sides of my family have diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, among other things. So it really shouldn’t have come as a surprise when my mother had a heart attack before her 40th birthday. While it was a wake-up call for Mom to start taking better care of herself, it still scarred us all.

So when just days into 2012 I started having chest pains and difficulty breathing, it made sense that my mind jumped to “heart attack!” Add in the numb hands and feet, I was fairly sure something was seriously wrong. We raced to the E.R. My boyfriend, as he’s always done, was right by my side as they did an EKG and took bloodwork. He rubbed my back as I cried in pain and fear. When each test came back “normal,” he shared my frustration. It was obvious SOMETHING was wrong. But no one could find it.

We spent nearly nine hours in the hospital that night. I left with more questions than answers, angry, and in more pain than when I went in. I was unable to walk and had to be escorted in a wheel chair. The diagnosis? It was all in my head.

Literally.

The doctor said all my tests were normal and the only thing he could suggest was a psychiatric evaluation.

Hence the anger.

Fortunately, I had a previous appointment scheduled for my primary care doctor within an hour of my release from the hospital. We headed there, where my doctor listened to my concerns and reviewed the tests from the hospital. His diagnosis?

“I don’t know why the sent you home, your inflammatory markers are through the roof.”

He wanted to run one more blood test and promised to call me with the results that afternoon. He gave me a prescription to help manage the pain and sent me home to rest. A few hours later he called to tell me he was referring me to a rheumatologist.

Until that point, I knew nothing about Rheumatoid Arthritis. I spent the next few weeks researching RA and taking notes on EVERYTHING. I called my parents to get a more detailed family medical history.

And I was confined to my bed. Although my doctor had prescribed medications to help control my symptoms until I could be seen by the specialist, I was still in tremendous amounts of pain. I suffered from frequent bouts of complete numbness in my hands and feet that made it difficult to walk even the few feet to the bathroom. It was one of the most difficult months of my life.

I’ve learned a lot in the last year. About RA and pain management, about medications and their side effects. About myself, my family and friends, and my life. There have been some really low times and some great high points. Each day brings something different. Each moment brings change.

The one thing that has remained constant has been the love of my boyfriend and the support I’ve received from fellow spoonies. My adopted family has stood by my side and helped to pick me up each time I’ve fallen. Their continued faith in me has been the shining light on the days when I didn’t think I could get out of bed. Their love has helped me to celebrate the little victories and learn how to redefine myself. Without them, I know I could not have survived. With them, I continue to thrive.

Ian, Nolan and Courtney, Becky, Teala, Tracie, Misty, Cindy, Tooker, Crys (and Jack!), Dawnie, Kristen and Seth, Shevaun, Joules, Cathi, Cathy, Delana, Erica, Greg, Karen, Natalie, and many others. Thank you all for you love and support this last year. Whether direct or indirect, you all helped in your own ways. Without you, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

And today, I’m happy.

I’m living.

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5 thoughts on “What a Year a Difference Makes

  1. I am so glad you have a primary care doctor who actually gives a shit about you, and that he helps you make sure that you hang around for those of us who desperately need your beautiful self in our lives!

  2. Damn I’m glad you got help and they were able to figure it out. I’m in the middle of that freaking struggle right now. SO FRUSTRATING. “Well I’m not sure what’s going on but here’s a referral to the psych department.” Assholes. I know my body! Something isn’t right! It’s not in my head!

    Thanks for writing this. You’re helping me to keep pushing for answers.

  3. I’ve taken a few trips like that to the ER. But mine really were panic attacks. I think all the time about how callous they were and how many people are probably sent home with the same diagnosis who later end up sicker or dead.
    I’m so glad you figured out what it really was, but I wish you didn’t have RA. I can’t imagine living with that kind of pain every single day. I am holding out for a cure very soon.
    I’m so happy that I could in any way be in your corner. I’ll stick around if you don’t mind too much, it’s nice here:)

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