Sunday, August 28, 2011

Life As a Dinosaur: A New Beginning

March 8, 2011 - Saw the new rheumatologist this morning. TheHusband met me at the clinic for this first appointment. He is very concerned regarding the prior doctor's initial diagnosis and treatment plan. Not to mention the communication issues we had with the prior rheumatologist. She would tell us one thing, but then do another (see previous post regarding "the last straw").

I have to admit that I was kind of nervous regarding this appointment. Why? Because their website hasn't been updated in several years and because the forms they had me fill out prior to the visit were very repetitious. So much so that I would fill out one sheet, turn to the next and answer the very same questions (the only difference being in formatting). However, when I arrived at the office I was warmly greeted by the woman at the front desk. It turns out that she's been a patient of the doctor I will be seeing for 27 years (only worked for him for the past 5 years). That has to say something about him, right?

We spent quite a bit of time with the PA (physician's assistant) going over the progression of the disease. Even though they had received the information from the other doctor they had some questions and I didn't mind answering them. Going over everything made me feel like I had been dealing with this for a lot longer than three years, but really, it's only been three years. After asking all her questions, the PA had me do some range of motion test. I'm proud to say that I can still touch my toes from a standing position without bending my knees. (Brag much??)

She then talked to the doctor for a few minutes before bringing him in to talk with me and TheHusband. This doctor seemed very open to answering questions. It felt very much like he wanted us to understand everything that was going on, both with the disease but with the treatment plan. With the old doctor it always felt like we were imposing or we were wasting her time. Sometimes it even felt like she was defensive, like "who are we to be asking these questions". Now, I don't like to say bad things about people, but that truly was the vibe I got from her. She may very well be a great doctor for someone else, but she definitely wasn't the doctor for me.

NewDr was very confident in his treatment methods, and admitted to being a bit of a "cowboy" in the midwest when it came to how aggressively he treats his patients. Not sure if TheHusband liked this or not, but time will tell. I do know that one of the complaints he had about OldDr was that she wasn't very aggressive in her treatment of my disease. After answering all of our questions (mostly TheHusbands) he confirmed that the initial diagnosis was probably correct. However, OldDr never quite explained that instead of just suffering from ONE thing, my body was actually experiencing a variety of selections from the spondyloarthropathy (say that 5 times fast, heck I'll be impressed if you can say it once - I can't) smorgasbord.

Also, NewDr put into words something that I had an inkling of but until now wasn't fully aware of (and I admit may not have wanted to really understand). Spondyloarthropathies (or inflammatory diseases) are a systemic problem that happen to manifest themselves in the joints and connective tissues; however, the inflammation in the body can lead to problems with other systems/organs. There is increased risk for digestive system issues, heart disease, iritis (affects the eyes), etc. I knew some of this, but wasn't aware of the extent that the inflammation could cause other problems.

Let me tell you, I am always amazed at how complicated and interconnected this body that God designed is. I sometimes joke that "I am a delicate flower" when talking to people about how a change in the weather or not getting enough sleep or water can really affect how I feel. But the more I learn about how things are connected and affect each other, the more I realize that I really am a delicate creation.

Anyway to wrap this post up, NewDr prescribed a new medication that should help with my back/hip issues and doesn't have the side effects that methotrexate has. That is a huge relief! It does take several months to really take affect, but I can live with that if I'm not feeling exhausted ALL.THE.TIME like I was on the methotrexate. Also, need to get a spinal MRI (which is scheduled for a few days from now). I've never had that done, but NewDr and his PA said that it will give them a really good look at what is going on there. If there's any "activity" they should be able to see it and take the appropriate treatment steps. (Another interesting thing I found out is that just because I might feel "good", it doesn't mean that there isn't any active inflammation).

What happens next? That's a good question. I guess we'll be finding out over the next few weeks and months. I hope to have good things to report.

Author's note: This is post is part of a series regarding my experience(s) with an autoimmune disease. My experience is unique to me and does not speak for all patients with autoimmune diseases. 

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