At the end of February, I went to see my rheumatologist in Ann Arbor. When I moved back from New York, it was an easy decision to start seeing him again. I couldn’t see him right away since I had Medicaid, but once my insurance through work kicked in, I was able to start seeing him again this past August.
I thought we were going to have a fight over the pneumonia shot. That was the fight I was prepared for. But I wasn’t expecting him to say what he did. He’s leaving the state.
Since I live about 45 minutes outside of Ann Arbor, it’s not super convenient anymore, especially since I currently don’t drive. But aside from the rheumatologist I saw in New York, this is the only rheumatologist that I’ve had. He’s the one who diagnosed me. He’s the one who believed that my symptoms weren’t all in my head. He’s the one who at our worst helped me become an empowered patient, and at our best, showed me that you can build a relationship with your healthcare provider.
It’s crazy to think that this month, I will have been diagnosed “officially” with lupus and RA for nine years. At my appointment, when he kept saying we’ve known each other for the better part of a decade, I thought yeah right. But it’s true. And I know I have joked before, but this is the second longest relationship I’ve had with a man, and the first longest was with my dad. So despite the ups and downs we’ve had, there’s something to be said for building lasting relationships with our health care providers.
Dear Dr. R.,
I’ve been thinking a lot about the news you gave me at my last appointment. Oddly, it wasn’t news that had to do with me or my health. It had to do with you. And it wasn’t news that I was expecting. When you told me you were leaving, I think the air was sucked out of the room. But I harbor no hard feelings. You do what you have to do. And it really touched me that you got emotional. That meant a lot. So now I’m doing something that I hope will mean something to you.
Rarely do I write thank you notes to medical professionals. It’s not because I don’t have gratitude or appreciation, because I do. But rarely do they truly deserve it. You do.
You are one of a few people who got me to where I am today. It is with your help that I can say I got two master’s degrees and a PhD, while battling lupus and RA. Well, let’s be honest, most of that was my dogged and pig-headed determination. But if you hadn’t been willing to pursue treatments and understand my goals and what was important to me, I wouldn’t have been able to do any of it. And we both know that all along the way, it certainly wasn’t easy. But I hope you agree that it was worth it.
Like Max Kellerman says to Baby in “Dirty Dancing,” “If it weren’t for this man, I’d be standing here dead.” I truly believe that if it weren’t for you, my quality of life would be significantly diminished. Or maybe I wouldn’t have a life at all.
I truly don’t know where I’d be, but I cannot imagine the last nine years without you.
I know we haven’t always agreed on everything, and maybe we weren’t even too fond of each other at first. But you diagnosed me with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. You saw me through the worst of it. And you’ve also seen me at the best place I’ve been, so I’m glad you’re leaving on a high note.
I can only hope that I find another rheumatologist to spend the next decade with.
There’s more I want to say. But it’s hard to find the words. Because how do I adequately express what you’ve done for me? I can’t. I truly can’t. So I’ll leave you with this. Two words. The most simple, yet profound words I can come up with. Thank you. Thank You. THANK YOU.
Please let me know if there’s someone I can forward this letter to, because I’d like others to know the profound impact you have had on my life. I know you don’t do what you do for recognition. And I know it must not be easy to see people day in and day out that you know you can maybe help but probably never cure.
So please know that you make a difference. You helped a scared 22 year old who thought her life was over. Thank you isn’t enough, but thank you.
With much gratitude,
Now I embark on the path of trying to find a new rheumatologist.
It’s not something I’m excited about, but I don’t have a choice. I actually had been told about one prior to finding out my rheumatologist was leaving, but had made the decision to stay with him because of the history.
Now I just have to bite the bullet and make an appointment.