My Long Road to a Diagnosis Doesn't Have to Be Traveled Alone


On any given day, I could be dealing with pain ranging from a four to a 10-plus. I’ll sometimes make a status update praising Salonpas patches or talking about how I have to use what feels like an entire bottle of pain cream.

I don’t particularly like talking about my chronic pain — or any of the battles I’m facing — but that’s all the more reason why I should. Over the last few months, my pain, coupled with fatigue and eczema flare-ups, have gotten worse. It also warranted a visit to my primary care physician.

If you know me, you know I avoid the doctor like the plague. It’s not a good habit to have, but after spending most of high school in and out of doctors’ offices, I’ve grown to loathe having to go to the doctor’s office unless it’s for something major. I also have had many friends have their pain and fatigue invalidated by doctors, which made me less inclined to see one.

However, I knew I had to take care of myself.

My doctor didn’t invalidate my pain and fatigue issues — he was actually concerned. He prescribed a topical steroid for the eczema on my arms, and ordered a series of a blood tests for me to have done. One of those tests was an ANA test, or antinuclear antibody panel.

If an ANA test comes back positive, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a specific autoimmune condition. Usually more tests will be run by your doctor — or they will refer you to a specialist — to figure out what exactly is going on.

My doctor called me about a week after the blood work was done to give me my results. My ANA panel came back positive. This could also be a false positive, he assured me over the phone, but he wanted me to see a rheumatologist just in case.

 

It’s been a month since I received my test results and I won’t be seeing the rheumatologist until toward the end of June due to scheduling. I hope that when I do get to see them, I’ll have a more definitive picture of what’s going on that is affecting my health.

Until then, I have my support system to rely on. From a loving and caring partner who does everything he can to make sure I’m comfortable and cared for, to friends and loved ones who are there when things get tough and the pain gets bad. I don’t think I would be able to handle the long waits between doctor visits without them.

I’ve learned throughout the years how important it is to have a support system. I’ve gone a long time trying to “go it alone,” but having someone be there for me when I have a bad day makes things a little more manageable. It doesn’t have to be grand gestures for me. It can just be a quick check-in to see how my day is going and reminding me how much I am loved. It’s the little things.

As hard as it can be sometimes, I just have to remain positive that things will turn out OK. And if they don’t, I know I am not alone.

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