13 Questions I Ask My Doctor to Help Manage My Rheumatoid Arthritis
I walked, or should I say hobbled, into his office as a 15-year-old teenager. For months I had been in pain, barely able to walk, often relying on a cane or crutches to get around. He walked into the room and looked almost as young as me. Now, 31 years later, there is not a man I trust more — one who literally holds my life in his hands. With each visit, each test, and each new treatment, I know he’s working towards helping me with my health, my well-being, my quality of life, and, if possible, my healing.
Dr. Meadors diagnosed me with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and has been my rheumatologist for 31 years. In fact, there has not been not a life event that I have walked through that he has not been part of. He has become “part of the family,” and that relationship has helped me through many ups and downs. In fact, had it not been for him, I still might not have my additional diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease because he was the one who finally got me to the right doctor to treat me.
He has focused on treating me holistically, as a whole person, and has not reduced me to my illness. He recognizes that I am more than RA and understands the impact this illness has on many aspects of my health, my relationship with my loved ones, and my quality of life. He has always ensured that I received the best possible care and has helped me through good and bad days alike, even when treatment did not go as planned or I suffered bad side effects.
The importance of our patient-physician relationship cannot be overstated. He knows my family, my kids, and what’s happening in my life, and uses these things to help tailor a plan to keep me moving. I call whenever I have a setback or need some answers, and he always makes time to help.
Our relationship has probably been one of the most positive factors in my health care, and I believe it has contributed to me continuing to do better than the odds say I should. The positive nature of this relationship has also empowered me to ask questions about my health and treatment. Dr. Meaders has always been willing to take time and ensure that I understand our healthcare plan for me and am comfortable with how we are moving forward.
Too often, as patients, we fear asking questions or do not know the questions to ask. I think this is because sometimes something is missing from the patient-physician relationship. First and foremost, as patients, we should be willing to build the relationship, and if our doctor is not, we need to consider if that doctor is for us. Furthermore, through this relationship, we should ask the questions that need to be asked so we can get the answers to guide our treatment. Some questions that might be helpful as you and your doctor consider treatment options are:
- What are the options for treatment based on my symptoms and progression?
- What are the long-term side effects of the treatments we are considering?
- What other side effects that I need to be aware of and look for?
- Are there natural and complementary ways to treat that might be effective in my case?
- What will the different treatments enable me to do? What limitations will it place on me?
- Am I seeing RA where no RA exists? In other words, when should I be worried and when should I not?
- If I feel something new, is this RA, or is it just me getting older? How can I know the difference?
- What are some misconceptions about my condition, or even misinformation, that I need to be aware of?
- Is there information I can give my family to help them understand what I am walking through?
- Are their resources, including prescription drug programs, that can give information, assistance, and support when needed?
- Are there lifestyle changes I can make to more effectively treat this disease?
- Is how I’m feeling normal? Is this a side effect that we should be concerned about?
- Should we try something else because this does not seem to be working?
As patients, we should be honest with our doctors about where we really are and how we are really doing. If we are not, how can we expect our doctors to treat us effectively? As patients, we should not be afraid to advocate for ourselves, our condition, and for the best treatment possible. If we cannot do this, we need to bring someone with us who will. If we have a good relationship with our doctors, they won’t be afraid of this advocacy and these questions; in fact, they will welcome it because it shows how seriously we take our health and our partnership with them.