Visiting the rheumatologist for the first time was scary. I had no idea what to expect. And meeting a doctor for the first time makes one -- or at least me -- ripe with anxiety. Will I like the doctor? Will she show care and compassion? Will I be rushed out or will I leave with the feeling that she had genuine concern for my well-being?
The patients waiting to see the 6 rheumatologists working out of this office were all easily 25 years older than myself. Despite being a few years before COVID-19, the waiting room was very cramped and every sneeze or throat clearing made me uneasy. I felt like an outsider and wasn't sure what to expect. Would I be coming back to this office in 25 years?
The doctor was lovely and took her time understanding my history and symptoms. I never felt uncomfortable or nervous. She made me show her my fingers and toes, which I initially found strange but later learned can show progression of the "disease." (It took me a long time to use this word in conjunction with my diagnosis, but I started doing so when I realized there is no cure for psoriatic arthritis, only management of symptoms.) She told me I most likely suffered from psoriatic arthritis, which I had never heard of, and that it could be genetic or triggered by an event.
I thought back to my falling and smacking my knees on the pavement a few years prior and was upset at myself for not realizing my feet were not properly flat on the pavement. Could that one stupid fall have caused all this? Could this entire process have been avoided had I not been rushing to make the light to get to work on time? Entirely possible. It was so frustrating that a lifelong and often debilitating condition could have been caused by a brief moment in time. A second, in fact. To this day, I mentally kick myself for being the always-in-a-rush New Yorker that I was and still am.
The doctor and I discussed my options, some of which were quite jarring. Hearing about side effects from certain medications made me uneasy, but I was at the same time trying to balance that fear with some reassurance that this may be the beginning of my path to healing. We decided to settle on a certain treatment, a twice daily medication that was shown to improve symptoms in both psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis patients, of which I was both. The initial few weeks of this medication are known to cause frequent trips to the restroom, and I was no exception. Unlike my usual character, however, I took it in stride -- if this medication, taken in pill form, could make me feel better, I'd take the side effects even if they lasted longer than a few weeks! I was proud of my maturity.
I initially felt better after taking the medication, but the psoriasis never really abated, and the doctor was not pleased with my progress after about 9 months. Stay tuned as my quest for psoriasis clearance and general pain management continued!
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