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What It's Like to Play 'Autoimmune Monopoly'


I recently rounded the board again in my decades-long game of Autoimmune Monopoly. It is always a little frustrating when the Monopoly guy sends you straight to jail without letting you collect your $200. All of us work so hard at this game, enduring symptoms no one wants, trying to put together random tiles into some sort of monopoly.

What landed me in jail was my monopoly on Graves’ disease. An expert in the field of endocrinology told me with “almost absolute certainty” that I was misdiagnosed in 2010. His said I went through an acute thyroiditis at some point in the past, which explained my oddly-shaped, lumpy and “plump” thyroid but also accounted for my currently normal thyroid blood work. So, I drew from the Chance card stack, and I was sent directly to jail. I had to sell my Graves’ disease tile on the AI Monopoly board, but I get to keep the tiles in that color block that are “Goiter” and “High Blood Pressure, Rapid Heart Rate.” That stinks.

I had made some progress recently in AI Monopoly. After owning the “Oral and Genital Ulcers” and “Unexplained Acne-like Pustules” tiles for many years, I finally purchased the Behcet’s disease tile in July. Owning this monopoly has allowed me to build a few houses on this color block. The medicines I now take are helping, providing welcome relief from years of discomfort.

I also hit a monopoly on the “Celiac” block. While rounding the board in September, I picked up the “Atrophied Villi” tile and then immediately landed the “Celiac disease” tile. I had already owned the “Gastro-intestinal Upset” tile for years. Monopoly! Unfortunately, I also drew the rather obvious Chance card of “No Gluten Ever Again.” Boo.

Much like the original version of Monopoly, all of these acquisitions come with a positive and a negative. I have found some level of satisfaction in getting my autoimmune monopolies organized. Providing random tiles of symptoms with a corresponding AI Monopoly disease tile sets out a map for future treatment, disease progression, and allows the mind to rationalize past experiences and expectations for the future. For example, with my Behcet’s disease monopoly, I will likely never draw from the Community Chest card stack to “Run a Marathon,” but I might get, “Congratulations! You finished your first 5k! Collect your $50 prize!” Only time will tell.

But there is also a down side to landing an Autoimmune Monopoly. The stress that comes with knowing too much. The financial burden of tests, medicines, specialists, health insurance – not to mention the emotional burden and psychological toll each diagnosis exacts upon us… it seems the “Chance” card pile is never stocked in our favor in this game.
I still have quite a few properties that have not been organized into monopolies.

And while this worries me, I’m trying to envision myself on a beach vacation while I sit here in AI Monopoly jail with my goiter. What does your Autoimmune Monopoly board look like?

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Thinkstock photo by stelianospicture