Saturday, January 25, 2020

Confessional: January 25, 2020

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No Labels here. Typically, this post would be for Sunday but since there's celebratory festivities that will be taking place tomorrow, it will be for today.

Originally, this was going to be about another topic, but an interaction that occurred recently catapulted this to the forefront.

Confession #4: Just because one is at a lower weight, it doesn’t mean all health problems are eliminated.

Warning: I will be discussing things related to medical issues. If this isn’t your cup of tea, then go and take a bathroom break. Guess how many dambs I give?

Normally, I don’t discuss my health struggles. I am choosing to do so to:

(1) shatter assumptions and
(2) to comfort those who are not alone in dealing with this.

Ya’ll ready? Here it go.

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My name is Monica, and although I don’t look like it (I cringe and have palpitations every time someone says “I don’t look like I got”), I am dealing with the following challenges:

~ I have the trait for Sickle Cell. Because I have said trait, I tend to manifest symptoms similar to anemia.

~I have Type 2 Diabetes. Controlled, yes, but I still have it. Because diabetes is more than just “a case of someone who consumed too much sugar” (I’ll get into more of that later, more than likely a separate entry), there are other factors that can raise or drop levels. It is important for me to stay stress-free because high degrees of stress can alter my glucose levels.

If you are currently a part of my life or trying to be that, you have to know the signs as well as what to do when I’m too high and/or too low. Otherwise, find a friend who has less to deal with.

~I have chronic back pain—sometimes triggered by stress, often triggered by what I’ve dealt with since I was nine years old (bigger breasts). I do not know why women continue to want bigger breasts when one of the major downfalls is back pain, as well as your tops never quite fitting right. When my spasms get too bad, they inhibit my mobility, including my ability to drive.

All this was prior to the new issues discovered within the past two years.

Around this time two years ago was when I got the Super Flu they were talking about here in NJ. I did get a flu shot in October 2017 but it was ineffective for this bug. By the time they had developed a vaccine for the Super Flu, I already had it.

When I caught this pesky bug, my weight was well over the two hundred pound mark. No, I suppose I didn’t “look it” to a lot of people but oh did I feel it!

A few events happened during the Super Flu:

(1)    I stopped eating … completely. I only drank fluids the entire time.

(2)    I slept … a lot.

(3)    I constantly had fever spikes, sometimes up to 103.

(4)    I was in a lot of pain, from my abdominals to my legs (I found out that wasn’t related to the flu at all … more on that later)

(5)    I lost track of time, found myself missing days.

Because of the Super Flu, I missed a week.

Even though I got the go-ahead for work, I wasn’t feeling quite right. Feeling drained and still in pain. The excessive pain landed me in the hospital where they just gave me fluids (because I was still dehydrated) and strong medicine to dull the pain to bearable.

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This Bitmoji doesn't begin to describe it. And I have a high tolerance for pain.

Unfortunately, things got worse. When I went back to the ER, they decided to run a CAT scan on my abdominal area. In the ER doctor's words, I was "chock-full of shit". So they gave me the prep liquid they give patients for colonoscopies and once the backup was alleviated, the pain went away.

The ER blamed the PCP. The PCP blamed the prior ER staff. It was a hot mess.

That caused me to miss an extra week and a half from work.

Then on top of that, my PCP at that time (I have since switched and that's for another entry) was so convinced that my diabetes was out of control because I was not investing in good nutrition. Despite the fact she knew I had been sick with the Super Flu and not eating (therefore unable to take my diabetes medicine), they ran an A1C test on me anyway. Of course, it was going to be jacked up.

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At that point, I was livid. I had a few words with her. She referred me to an endocrinologist (which was one of the few good things she did). When I told her about the pain that had started in my hands, she's like, "That's carpal tunnel. I will write you a script to get some splints." That was it. It was also the last time I saw her.

The next bit of this I'm going to do in the form of a timeline. It will help to keep track of the madness.

Mid-February 2018: A mysterious cough (which I've nicknamed Clingy) that I didn't have during the Super Flu made an appearance. The PCP chalked it up to my having an infection and kept giving me different antibiotics to treat it, all to no avail.

Late February 2018: I was fitted for hand splints to wear at night for my carpal tunnel. Arthritis gloves were also suggested to deal with the pain during the day. I was not referred to a proper specialist at that time.

May 2018: I had my first appointment with my endocrinologist. I was amazed at how kind he was, compared to the experience I had with the PCP who recommended him. He concluded that the old diabetes medication wasn't effective and decided to switch it. He also came up with a new approach to treating my cholesterol levels, since two medications I was prescribed previously had adverse effects.

June 2018: I decided to go through the process of being my own doctor for the cough. Since I first thought that it could be allergies, I went to an allergist. He ran some tests on me and since I tested for acute asthma, he concluded that the cough was related to asthma. From June-December, I was placed on a myriad of inhalers, as well as briefly put on prednisone. None of them worked, so I stopped going to him.

November 2018: The suggestions by my endocrinologist reflects positively in my bloodwork. He praised me on how well I was doing and said that my dosage would be reduced if things remained steady after the next round of bloodwork. 

**Note: I did start going back to the gym but I can't remember the precise month, although I am leaning toward the spring. Since I never gained back the appetite I once had, I just adjusted from where I was.**

January 2019: I become more diligent in my search for a PCP that was to my liking. There was one provided through this program where you can attend for free. I was just as annoyed with her as I was with the other one. If this was what Free got me, I'd rather pay.

Around February 2019: I had my first appointment with the PCP I selected. She was very solution-oriented. I mapped out in timeline format all of the underlying issues, which she was impressed with. She recommended a gastro doctor for my constipation issues and a pulmonologist for my coughing issues, to see if they could be lung-related. 1st patient appointments for both weren't until three months out but since they came highly recommended, I waited it out.

**Note: I'll break down how the pulmonologist and gastro turned out in a later segment.**

October 2019: I noticed that the pain in my hands was worse. There were moments when they'd go numb, or be in pins and needles. The splints were doing little to soothe the symptoms. I consider seeing a specialist in order to see if it's bone or nerve damage-related.

November 2019: I popped my right knee out of its socket during my vacation. When the pain had not eased, I contacted my PCP who referred me to an orthopedic doctor. He ran an x-ray on my knee and saw that I had arthritis, then gave me a cortisone shot.

December 2019: I went back to the orthopedic doctor for follow-up and asked him to check my left knee. There was arthritis in that one as well, but not as bad as my right one. He did treat the other one and told me to come back if the pain in either one of them got to be too bad.


Pre-weight loss:
~Sickle-cell trait
~Type 2 Diabetes
~Chronic back pain

Post-weight loss:
~Sickle-cell trait
~Type 2 Diabetes
~Chronic back pain
~Chronic constipation
~Chronic cough
~Carpal tunnel syndrome
~Arthritis in the joints
~Excess of sagging skin

Which list is longer?
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Update: Pulmonologist

I have had X-rays and CT scans on my lungs. Even had a biopsy, along with bloodwork to see if any autoimmune diseases are causing the coughing. Whatever inflammation was missed by the allergist on the X-ray he did in October 2018 cleared up by the time another one was run last year. Now, a new direction is taken--a nebulizer with treatments three times a day and a trial run of medication to treat any tightness of the lungs or breathing passages that may be triggering the cough.

Since the small diffuser has been lessening the coughing at home, I have spoken to my workplace about letting me have one at the office, since the concentration of the coughing takes place at work. Although I'm supposed to do the nebulizer three times a day, the machine is loud so it may cause disruption if I take it to work, so I've decided the three times a day would have to take place on the weekends.

Update: Gastroenterologist

It's not the doctor that I'm upset at but the front desk. I wasn't able to come to my follow-up appointment in June because it clashed with another appointment. I played phone tag with the receptionist for about two months. It actually took me stopping by their office before my appointment with the endocrinologist to finally get seen this month.

Since I have had polyps in the past, I told them that it may be a good idea to do the endoscopy/colonoscopy again, since there was a possibility they may have returned. That was the original route but they wanted to try this other medication (Linzess), which didn't work. After expressing my disdain, the doctor finally decided to schedule the procedure.

I just have a feeling there's something blocking my ability to do a natural number two. You have no idea how beneficial that function is until you cannot do it on a normal basis.

I invoke this level of transparency to say this:

To those with ailments, especially invisible ones:
  • I hate to say this, but the days where "the doctor knows best" may not always be accurate. You have to be proactive in your treatment. You have a right to disagree and/or say no if a doctor (a) is prescribing something that you already know doesn't work or causes an adverse reaction or (b) something you're not comfortable with or doesn't make sense
  • If you don't like your doctor, switch (if your insurance provider gives you choices)

To others (mainly those who are touting the whole "don't look like" scenario)
  • Do not use the "look of "someone as a measuring stick of health.
  • Weight doesn't automatically correspond with health either.
  • If you don't know how to give a proper compliment, then keep your mouth shut.

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