It started with a Twitter chat about different thyroid meds. Then we were emailing about hypothyroid. It morphed into conversations about our families, our hometowns, and the other stuff of life, but it always came back to health stuff. And then the other day Miss Diagnoses emailed me a transcript of an interesting talk about tick-borne illnesses and how their symptoms often masquerade as autoimmune diseases. Hmm. There’s something familiar about that!
I read the 21 page transcript, then I visited the doctor’s web site. I ordered his book from my library system and will pick it up next week when it arrives at my local branch. I considered trying to visit this doctor, without insurance, 5 hours away. And then I checked myself. How many times have I traveled down a similar path?
There are so many things that could be the cause of my health problems. There are so many things that could be contributing factors. It’s hard to know which to pursue. But every time I see a potential answer to the big question, I grab hold of it like a life jacket in the middle of the ocean. Then I remember that there’s a boat nearby. I’m just not sure if I can manage to swim to it, or if it might have a hole in the bottom. Because if I see the wrong infectious disease specialist, I might be told I don’t have any infectious diseases even though I do. Or I might be told I need treatment that I don’t need. Or I might be given antibiotics for 1 month when I really need them for 1 year.
There was a time when I believed, as so many people still do believe, that if you get sick, you see a doctor, they find the problem, they treat you, and you get better. But I know better now. I have literally dozens of stories to disprove that neat little theory. Take last fall. I saw a sleep doctor who said there was nothing he could do to help me. He gave me a referral to a sleep psychologist. Great. Then I saw someone else in his practice (the doctor I’d originally been trying to see anyway!) He ordered tests that the first doctor didn’t even suggest. He suggested a medication change that the first doctor ignored. I ended up with a sleep apnea diagnosis that the first doctor never considered. And he prescribed a CPAP machine that I was clearly never going to get from the first doctor. The CPAP has made a huge difference for me. I sleep so much better, and I feel more clear-headed. Some nights I haven’t used it all night for one reason or another (an ear infection, congestion, a weird dream that caused me to take it off in my sleep) and there’s a noticeable difference the next day not only in my fatigue and energy levels, but also in the clarity of my thinking. More than that, if untreated, sleep apnea can be dangerous. One doctor diagnosed it. Another never considered it. And that was in the same practice.
I can give similar stories in the fields of endocrinology, rheumatology, internal medicine, physical therapy, psychology, dentistry, orthopedics, and probably others that I’m not thinking of right now. So why should infectious disease or any other specialty be any different?
And yet I know that I need to pursue this. And visiting an supposed-expert 5 hours away for many hundreds of dollars just isn’t the most realistic approach. I need to find someone local, and I really won’t know if they’re any good until I try them. And even then, I don’t know enough about the field to be sure. But I’ll try, because what other option is there? Can I really risk leaving this stone unturned?
I started a list tonight of new paths to pursue, new potential pieces of my health puzzle. Maybe this isn’t one of them. But there’s no way to know until I try.
If you know of a great infectious disease specialist in Boston, please let me know in the comments or email me at msrants at gmail dot com ! And I’d love to know about your experiences with infectious disease diagnoses and research.