Why I Trust My Intuition Over Lab Work Results
Over the last two years or so, I began developing some symptoms I’d never experienced. The first notable one being extreme fatigue. I brushed it off, attributing it to the stress that came with attending college. My migraines started to intensify and last longer. I suffered from migraine since middle school and again told myself it was linked to the responsibilities I’d taken on. Between work and school, I tried to convince myself this was normal. Slowly but surely, I began missing classes and calling into work because I was either too fatigued or vomiting from skull crushing pain. I knew something was off at this point and things only grew worse.
My whole life I’d been told by doctor after doctor that nothing was wrong, and that it was probably a symptom of my anxiety or depression. I kept dismissing myself until I couldn’t anymore. Deep down, I had always known otherwise. But after having had standard blood work done with no abnormal results, I thought maybe this really is in my head. I felt defeated and contemplated surrendering and accepting my fate. That would have been a mistake and I refused to accept that it could be “just in my head.”
I frequented the emergency room this last year. Initially, it was for migraines that left me incapacitated for days at a time. I wanted to sob, but that only exacerbated the intensity and eventually I’d wind up begging my fiancé to escort me to the hospital. Following that, I started going in because my joints began to grow red, inflamed, and extremely tender. I could barely walk or even stand for longer than a few minutes. As it turns out, I got diagnosed with rheumatic fever and doctors also suspect an underlying illness. They believe something made me more susceptible to the fever, as it’s quite rare.
Prior to the diagnosis, whenever I’d gone into the ER, they gave me pain drugs as a band aid and sent me home. They can’t be blamed, that’s their job. They have many patients to attend to, and while I was hurting and that shouldn’t be dismissed, others were probably in more critical states. However, after what must have been my third time in the ER within two months, they decided to run more blood work and some of my levels were elevated.
Finally, I felt relief knowing I hadn’t made up the symptoms, even though some of them were clearly visible – such as the redness and swelling. The self-doubt from lack of answers had me in denial and I wanted more than anything to know why it felt as if my body failed me.
My gut told me something was off for so long and it was right. I am still terrified because I will be meeting with a rheumatologist for the first time next month. I personally agree with the numerous doctors I’d visited already, that something else isn’t right. Still, I worry I’ll hear the dreaded words, “We can’t find anything else.”
Rheumatic fever in and of itself is very serious if left untreated, and I am inexplicably grateful to that ER doctor who ran the tests to find it. But, I also know in my gut that something else is there. As grateful as I am, I am not emotionally prepared to have my other symptoms attributed to my mental illnesses. After years of intensive therapy, I can differentiate between anxiety symptoms and other physical symptoms. I am desperate for my rheumatologist to understand that. But if not, that won’t stop me from my fight.
My advice to anyone out there enduring a similar situation is to not grow discouraged. Doctors are human beings, just like us, and they miss things, make errors and are biased. A proper diagnosis takes time. Sometimes all it takes finding the right doctor to see something no one else has. While no one wants to be ill, there is some relief in receiving a diagnosis. It enables you to learn what the next steps are. For me, it validates that I haven’t become lazy or weak and that what I’m experiencing is indeed real. Always trust your intuition and be diligent in your concerns. You know your body better than anyone else.
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