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What 100 Doctor Appointments in One Year Have Taught Me

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I have had 100 appointments with medical professionals in a single year. I’m both shocked by that number, but also validated. I cannot believe how long I suffered in silence without any help. No, I’m not where I want to be, but I feel I’ve made progress on getting closer to being a better me.

But to say that I deplore cold waiting rooms, needle pricks, and spending each week with doctors and patients alike would be almost an understatement. It’s not that those things are horrible (minus the needles), but it’s often a sad reminder of what I have to do in order to simply exist. I share all of this because I don’t think people understand what the chronic illness life is really like.

During those appointments, I’ve had skin pricks, injections, electrical stimulation into my muscles, agonizing stretches and movements on land and in water. I’ve heard the deafening sound of MRI machines and x-rays to rule out damaged and deteriorating bones, and had electrodes glued to my scalp as they tried to trigger seizures and caused a massive migraine instead. I’ve been made to hyperventilate and nearly faint, had my lungs tested and had 54 needles in both my upper arms in a span of 20 minutes. It’s just been so much that I can’t even recall everything at this point. What I can remember are those moments of utter hopelessness and hearing, “It’s only pain management at this point.” That there isn’t yet a cure. (It took only two appointments to learn that last one.)

But what have I learned from seeing countless doctors, nurses, specialists, physical therapists, and a therapist?

I’ve learned that I can both be a patient on a chart and an actual person in pain at the same time. I’ve learned that setbacks happen far too often, but you can come back too. I have found that health often fluctuates and there are both good and bad days when you’re chronically ill. I’ve learned that it takes an incredible amount of determination to call and set up appointments, show up for those appointments and recover physically, mentally and emotionally from those long days. I am serious about taking care of my health but also about trying to balance out days of rest. And as a bonus, I can now haggle with insurance companies and I have found that I’m a notorious list maker for each week.

I’ve learned that I can handle far more than I originally thought I could. That I have an internal, unseen strength that isn’t dependent on my physical abilities. That I am capable of making myself a priority after all. That I actually give a damn about me and not just others. I’ve learned to advocate for myself and that’s a win in and of itself.

I’ve come across countless people, each walking their own journeys as helper or patient, and sometimes both. I’ve had countless conversations, met remarkable individuals and forgot more names than I could dare remember. It’s a rollercoaster some days. Sometimes, all we want as patients is to just scream and beg for the ride to end, to stop being chronically ill. A hundred appointments later and I understand that’s not possible, but I’ve also learned that I can still enjoy this life, even from an uncomfortable chair in a chilly waiting room.

These 100 doctor appointments are proof that I love myself and that I’m working hard for my best life with the tools I have been given. As for the tools I have yet to obtain, I’m still determined to learn about those.

I wouldn’t say I’m physically better, but I am a better person as a whole. Beyond the medical tests, I’ve found I can withstand tests I’d never think I could handle if I hadn’t been on this journey. Life went on, bringing its challenges and struggles, its goodness, and its joys. I grew as an individual and although it’s been difficult, I’m proud of the person I’m becoming by choosing my health.

Originally published: August 24, 2021
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