Believe Yourself

Hello, friends –

I know some of you have noticed my Facebook posts dropping off lately, and we all know it’s taking me much too long to write this next book! The truth is, my health has been pretty terrible. I didn’t want to post whiny diatribes or make excuses, and I hate to bring up something so personal, but I feel like I owe an explanation to the readers and friends who’ve stuck with me for the past few years.

Besides, this isn’t just about me. I think a lot of women have gone through this sort of thing, and maybe I can help someone by sharing my experience.

For a long time, doctors  couldn’t find anything to account for the problems plaguing me. They found some osteoarthritis, but not enough to account for the magnitude of my pain, my fatigue, my weird fevers, or my memory issues. It was chalked up to long-term side effects from chemotherapy, so I soldiered on, doing my best and constantly, endlessly berating myself for not trying harder, doing better, getting on with life in spite of it all.

Five years after chemotherapy, I knew I should be better. It’s rare for side effects to last so long, and mine weren’t just persisting; they were getting worse. I spent long hours on the internet, trying to figure out what was wrong – which isn’t exactly a healthy pursuit. My doctor agreed that I might have something like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, so she sent me to a new rheumatologist, Dr. Howard Schneider, in Cheyenne. He promised me he’d figure it out.

He kept his promise, despite the fact that seventeen vials of blood and dozens of tests revealed nothing. He moved on to a rather obscure scan, not commonly done, and it showed my joints are truly on fire. I’m not imagining the pain. Years and years after my issues began, I finally know I have rheumatoid arthritis, and I’ve had it for a long time. I’m just a bit unusual; it’s odd that it doesn’t show up in blood tests. But I never said I was normal, right? 

RA isn’t a good thing to have, but it has a name and it can be treated, so I’ll take it over the doubts and frustration of the past few years. It may take a while to find the right medication, but I have high hopes that I’ll get back to being my happy, productive self.

Most of all, it’s a relief to know I’m not crazy. Most doctors are caring individuals who are dedicated to their patients, but I’ve been to several who clearly dismissed me as a whiny, malingering woman with psychological issues. They had me convinced for a while there, and that assumption kept me from getting the treatment I need.

The sooner you catch RA, the better your prognosis, so those disbelieving doctors did me no favors. But if I won’t be completely well, I’ll at least be better, and that’s a miracle I’d just about given up on.

Maybe it’s too soon to talk about miracles, but I’ve learned one thing for sure, and I want to share it:

If you’re a woman, and something feels wrong, don’t let anyone dismiss you. You know your body, and you know when things aren’t right. Find a doctor who listens to you, and believes you, and get the help you need.