August is both a happy and sad month for me. Happy because I get to celebrate another year of life. Sad because days before my 23rd birthday I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. It’s also when I met my first rheumatologist and developed a fear and hatred for doctors.
Before falling ill, I rarely visited a doctor’s office. I rarely got sick, for that matter.
I had no idea what was in store for me. I didn’t know I would spend the next 6 years in pain, every day hoping it was all a bad dream. Not only did I have to deal with that — but having a doctor who didn’t hear me out and just wanted to shove dozens of pills down my throat didn’t make things any easier.
My first doctor landed me in the hospital after a few months of treatment with liver problems. Once I wised up and decided enough was enough, I went on to meet my second rheumatologist. She was more caring and genuinely listened to me. However, the sicker I got the more flustered she became. I was sent to several specialists and felt like I was being tossed around because no one knew what to do with me or how to handle my case.
The day I met my current doctor a weight was lifted and I felt hopeful. He told me something I’d never expect a doctor to say. He said that by my next birthday he wanted me in remission and instead of seeing him on a weekly basis, one day I’d only see him for yearly check ups.
A lot of people think doctors like him don’t exist, or that I’m simply gloating about how amazing he is. But I know first hand that sometimes it takes years and patience to find the right match.
Even though it hasn’t happened yet, I know that at this moment I’m the closest I’ve ever been to getting there. My depression is gone and so are the pills that made me emotionally numb. I don’t wake up with as much arthritis stiffness as before and overall I feel good.
For some, it may seem like small victories but to me they’re epic wars I’ve won.
I’ve learned so much about myself through all my pain and misery. I’ve shut everyone out, given up, broken down, and reached my breaking point. But after all of that I’m still standing, head held high on the shoulders of everyone who didn’t give up on me.
I realized what was truly important to me and that I didn’t need much to make me happy.
While others wish for fancy gifts, expensive jewelry or lavish parties, I only have one wish.
Arlene Grau lives in Lakewood, California. She suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus, migraine, vasculitis, and Sjogren’s disease.
The information in this column is not intended to be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Only your doctor can do that! It is for informational purposes only and represent the author’s personal experiences and opinions alone. It does not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report or Microcast Media.