Friday, October 30, 2009

Begin at the Beginning

I started having shoulder pain in the mornings in the winter of 1991 - not something I gave much thought, chalking it up to usual aches and pains of being a on the junior high school volleyball team. And then volleyball season ended, and my shoulders and wrists still hurt. Off to my family doctor I went and some physio was prescribed, ultrasound on my wrists. The first time I heard arthritis mentioned was by the tech performing the treatment and of course, I said I was too young. And I was, wasn't I?

My GP wasn't sure so he sent me to an internist who tested me to no avail for 3-4 months. Finally, after a trip to a lupus and chronic disease conference for teenagers in search of some answers, I felt confident that I didn't have lupus (thank God) but was convinced that his course of treatment - or lack thereof - was not doing me any favours. At the time I was on 8 aspirin a day, and then had to take medication for the minor ulcer developing in my 16 year old stomach. The ironies of taking medication for my medication.

At my appointment a few weeks after I got back from the conference, I demanded a referral to Sick Kids in Toronto (I lived in Brampton at the time). Picture a 16 year old demanding a referral for treatment. My mom sat beside me in silent support. With a bit of time and experience with the medical field, I have learned that all doctors are not created equal, and he didn't have a clue. It was an early lesson on being your own health care advocate.

That's how I found myself in a preppy button down cream and navy plaid long sleeved shirt with walking shorts and penny loafers (including the penny) at the Sick Kids rheumatology clinic with a diagnosis within 30 minutes. I remember exactly how I felt (and what I wore) in July of 1991 in the examining room with my parents. I was perplexed that in 30 minutes I could be diagnosed, when the internist had no clue after 4 months.

It was the day that shifted me, my life, my focus and my trajectory permanently. Certainly makes the top 5 worst days of my life, although at the time I didn't really see that. I was simply grateful that relief was in sight.

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