Friday, March 22, 2013

What To Do While Waiting to Get Diagnosed

Dear Carla-

I have been back and forth to my Dr for over two years. I asked for a blood test to check my thyroid. She ordered a full work up after wondering why I was taking all the meds (5 at that time). Every thing was normal except thyroid.

This past fall was the first time I heard the word fibromyalgia. In January I was referred to a rheumatologist, who ordered updated blood work. Now it shows a 36 sed rate on a scale of 0-15 for men and 0-20 for woman being normal. And a positive ANA. The nurse would not explain what this means.  My appt with the rheumatologist is not for another month.

I have not worked in 2 1/2 years. I used to be a flat roofer, extremely active. Nowadays, just going to the store or walking around the block will knock me out for a day. I'm 47 and I just want to know what is going on with my body and to know that i am not crazy.

Hello -
And thanks for writing.
You're definitely not crazy. Something is wrong and you know it.
And the tests confirm it.

An elevated sed rate means you have inflammation.
A positive ANA means you have autoimmune activity. In other words, your immune system is attacking your healthy tissues. It's possible you may have lupus. I do.

The wait time to see a rheumatologist for the first time is always unacceptably long, and I am sorry about that. I don't think health professionals have any idea what psychological burden it is to be in limbo, tired and hurting and having no idea what is going on and why.

What you can do right now is start keeping a symptom journal. Nothing fancy. Just every day, jot down:
- any symptoms (fever, joint pain, rashes, fatigue, etc.).
- your energy level on a scale of 1-10
- pain level, 1-10
- weight and temperature

Then, when you go to the doctor, you'll have a lot of helpful data to give him/ her.

While you're at it, write out your medical history. Jot down
- all the stuff that went on over the last couple years with your health
- any illnesses in your family (blood relatives: mother, father, siblings, grandparents)
- any surgeries or pregnancies you've had
-  a list of all the drugs, prescription and nonprescription, that you are taking now, and how many milligrams of each, how many times per day.

Try to have all that ready before your appointment. Type it up, print it out, and bring it in. Even if they don't read it, you can have it to refer to in case your mind goes blank when they ask you questions. If you're lucky, they will read through it and put it in their chart.

Collecting this info is something you can do now while you're in limbo waiting for your appointment. It beats sitting around doing nothing, and it will very likely help you get the right diagnosis faster. In my book, getting the right diagnosis is so important- then you can figure out what to do next. Once you have your diagnosis, you can either go down the route of medications, or pursue alternative medicine and/ or nutritional changes. But getting diagnosed will keep you from doing something that might make things worse. Knowledge is power.

You can get your health back. I got mine back. It's all possible.
Just do what's in front of you. Pray if you're a praying person- ask to be given excellent help and the correct diagnosis and the next right step. And collect the data. And do something fun to distract yourself from your worries. That's what is in front of you right now.

Wishing you all the best-

Carla Ulbrich

The Singing Patient: Author, Speaker, Humorous Songwriter and Entertainer - Carla's book "How Can You NOT Laugh at a Time Like This?