Over the past few years, I have seen more medical specialists and had more evaluations by physical therapists than I’ve been on first dates. When my injuries failed to heal at a normal rate and new ones began popping up, I was told that there had to be a reason why and so the chase for my medical mystery began like a series of blind dates. I did my research on each provider before the first appointment like consulting with a girlfriend for advice before a first date. After scheduling my first appointment, I would then organize my medical records and prepare my questions just as I would pick out a killer outfit and paint my nails the night before a date.
Then the day you have been waiting for has finally arrived. You sit there alone in your thoughts in the cold exam room anticipating the conversation to be had, a little bit anxious and a little bit excited about the possibility of where it could lead. I’ve had to repeatedly tell my story so many times that I now have the critical points down pat and clearly concise. However, your story and symptoms are off the script from their expertise, you are outside the box, the unknown. I have been told that I’ve done everything right and investigated every avenue to rule out a potential diagnosis. You try one last time to ask for their advice for some guidance on a treatment plan, but again you are told that you’re doing everything right and just give it time. Just like at the end of a relationship, there are no more words to be said, they have been exhausted. You may get a referral and you can take it or leave it just like the last piece of advice you may get from an ex. You glance back one last time, and thank them for their time as you have had manners instilled in you from an early age.
Sometimes, you have to be patient and play the game by getting the unnecessary x-ray again before you can get an order for a MRI that detects soft tissue problems, which is what your symptoms actually indicate. You then learn how to stand up for yourself when your time or autonomy is not being respected; such as in having to come in for a separate appointment to have my new symptoms reevaluated before getting the test or order I need after just having a recent appointment, then I would still need to schedule the test and a follow-up appointment to go over the results. I know the doctor is simply following protocol in what we dubbed in pharmacy school as “cookbook medicine.” I knew his next move before he even made it by simply following the treatment guidelines. I called the doctor’s office back pleading that it was difficult to come back in, and my doctor is free to call my physical therapist to verify my symptoms. My request for the order was granted and the call to my physical therapist was never placed. I was learning the ropes of the system. At this point, with a pharmacy background, I could likely moonlight as a physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor or a physical therapist by knowing almost every muscle group and tendon, diagnostic test, inflammatory marker, and therapeutic technique for soft tissue pain.
Though I have I failed to get any answers from the medical community, I have found what works for my body and that has been a more holistic approach with a combination of various alternative therapies that focus on the whole body as well as my own exercise plan. We are all looking for our stories to be heard and to be understood. I have met so many compassionate people through my journey in finding different alternative therapies and they all have their own unique stories to tell. I recall their stories of strength to get me through times of weakness. I have felt support by finally being heard and strength in finding my own voice to speak up for myself and for those that cannot in advocating for chronic pain. You learn to be your own advocate and to not wait around for an answer; instead, relying on your own motivation to get you through this journey. I move forward every day with an open mind and an open heart, never giving up hope. If you have your spirit crushed by someone or some therapy you’re not responding to, just move on; there are plenty of more paths to take that may lead to what you’re looking for. I am not waiting for a miracle to be saved. Instead, I’m taking control and rescuing myself.