“Won’t you take me to Funkytown?”
Well, that’s pretty much the way I felt about this latest rheumatologist appointment, which happened yesterday. I’ve pretty much been dreading it for the past six months. At my last appointment in November, things did not go well (see my post “It’s A Numbers Game”). I was not in a good place at the time, and Doctor C appeared wholly unsympathetic to me.
Things have cropped up during this hiatus that I’ve tried to ignore, because I promised myself that since Doctor C was cutting me loose for six months, I’d do everything in my power to keep it that way. Plus, there are some downward awkward conversations I knew were going to be had; conversations that I don’t really ever want to have with anyone, let alone my rheum.
I went into this appointment thinking that I was either going to fire Doctor C or he was going to fire me. And that didn’t happen. But the truth is, I think I might get fired next time if I don’t hold up my end of the bargain. I pretty much can’t slow down until I’ve reached PhD candidacy. But that means that once I’ve passed my first prelim (fingers crossed) at the end of August, I will need to start putting myself first. How many times have I made that promise (and broken it)?
So let’s talk about symptoms. First, new; photosensitivity and mouth sores. Second, returning/worsening; dry mouth and eyes (I might as well embody what it means to be a “dead fish” in the relationship; put in a nicer way, “a fish out of water”), right hip pain and stiffness, dizzy spells, lack of appetite, and severe pain episodes.
But the truth is, while this may seem like a laundry list of symptoms, which it basically is, that’s not the point. The point is that these illnesses have become a liability, a quality of life issue. And that’s what I need to tackle at this point. It’s not so much that these individual things are so troublesome, but the fact that taken together, they are really putting a crimp in my life.
I’m trying to live the fun, exciting, carefree life that a 23-year-old should be living, but lupus and rheumatoid arthritis are making that pretty difficult right now. And that’s what I want Doctor C to understand. I’m having a hard time navigating the awkward conversations that I need to have, and I worry that if I don’t learn how to have them, I’ll become reclusive (or worse).
In the past, it has been about, simply put, keeping me functioning. It has been about reducing pain. But being away from my rheum for six months, it has become more than that. It’s about wanting to be able to live my life. Last year I was really unhappy because I felt bad nearly all the time. But this year has been a test of my physical and emotional wit. I will feel pretty good for a few weeks, and then I’ll flare violently for a few days, sometimes for reasons known to me, sometimes not. This usually spirals and sends me into a depression. Then I move on, and the cycle repeats itself.
Does Doctor C want to hear that in two years, I’ve only had two really good, nearly pain free, practically illness free weekends that I can remember? The first was my sister’s Bat Mitzvah last October. I had just entered the sick world, and it was the last time my family was all together and happy, and I wasn’t “really” sick. The second was more recent. Memorial Day 2009. And does Doctor C want to know that I wish everyday could be a throwback to that weekend? For some obvious and not so obvious reasons…
But see, these are the things that I never utter in my appointment that I wish he could know. I mean, don’t get me wrong, five days of happiness is a lot better than none. But really? Five days out of 730? That’s exactly 1%. I really hope, I have to believe that we can do better than that.
(And okay, so I’m sure there’ve been a few other good days here and there, but when I was pouring over them in my brain, that’s all I could come up with…)
I’ve had an interesting (read: strained) relationship with my rheum. But what I think it comes down to is something I’ve been struggling with a lot of people in my life lately. I don’t want a hero who is going to pick me up and carry me through life. I want someone who’s going to be there in good times and bad times, and who is going to be there to help me through the hurt, not try and spare me the hurt altogether. Because inevitably, the hero is going to trip, fall, and drop me on my ass, or more likely, my bad hip. And that does no one any good.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I would put Doctor C in the “hero complex” category. Doctor C wants to be able to fix everything, and he can’t do that, and I know he can’t, and he knows he can’t. And as much as I would love my pre-lupus/RA life back, that’s not going to happen. So now I have to live the best I can with what I have. And I feel like in the impersonality of the rheum clinic, that gets lost a lot of the time.
But of course, there’s always the comical occurrence that happens when I’m at a rheum appointment. So, my right hip has been giving me a lot of problems. So Doctor C says he’s going to take a look. And he starts pressing on it, and when I hit the ceiling in pain he says, “Yep, you’ve got arthritis in your hip.” And I’m thinking, I could have told him that. Really, 10 plus years of med school for that? Thanks doc, really, thank you.
So again, nothing changes, except prednisone is back in the picture (and if you missed that chapter, there are many anti-prednisone posts to pick from; and I feel like I’ve finally gotten my body back in shape from the first prednisone debacle, but that’s a whole other story entirely). That’s right, the “p” word, but only on the bad pain days. We’ll see what happens… I do understand Doctor C’s point of view. More medications mean more side effects. More side effects mean, well, we all know what that means. And the words leave of absence were uttered again by my rheum. But I’ve explained to him and the readers of this blog more times than I can count why that isn’t a possibility, at least not right now.
So, I’ve been cut loose for another six months. But I won’t be stubborn and pigheaded this time. I won’t pretend that I can hold everything together on my own. And I can’t operate full speed ahead anymore – and I’ve known this for a while – but I have to own up to it now.
And because we all need a little comic relief once in awhile, movies that have “rheum” in the title…because I’ve been obsessing over this for a while now…don’t know why:
“A Rheum with a View”
“Music From Another Rheum”
It’s a little scary that all these titles sound foreboding. This list is not scientific or exhaustive, so if you have any others, throw them at me!