This week has been a whirlwind of stress stemming from a visit to the rheumatologist. I had my first appointment with a new rheumatologist last week. Long story short, I’ve been having a lot (some days excruciating) pain in my neck. Occasionally I notice a bit of numbness in my hands as well. Since its pretty common for a person with one autoimmune disease to have multiple, I asked my primary care doc to run a rheumatoid arthritis panel just in case. Nothing indicated I had RA, but there was a lab value that was a bit off and my doc recommended I go to a rheum.
I instantly loved my rheumatologist. She was so attentive and patiently listened to my hodge podge of weird symptoms. She made the decision to run a whole gamut of labs and take some x-rays of my hands and neck just to make sure everything was a-okay. About 10 vials of blood later, I was on my merry way to finish my day.
As most practices do these days, my rheum had a patient portal. Like any sane (by sane I mean nutball) human would do, I started checking the portal ~58 times a day to see if my labs had populated. Thursday at 3pm I noticed they were there!! I assumed that I had a clean bill of health since no one had called. As I scanned the results, I noticed two tests that stood out. The first was an ANA (anti-nuclear antibody) test that was marked as “positive/abnormal”. The second was an anti-dsDNA (anti-double stranded DNA) that had the result “high”. Like any rational (again by rational I mean nutball) non-medical professional would do, I went to the googles. I had to know IMMEDIATLEY what these results meant and I started my research. Welp by 4pm on Thursday I had diagnosed myself with Lupus. No matter which way I tried searching, everything with a positive ANA and a high anti-dsDNA meant Lupus. I was convinced. I even shed a couple tears because according to google, Lupus could be livable or it could be terrifying as fuck.
Friday, I called my doctor at 8am on the dot and left a message with her MA. In my most calm and collected voice, I politely left a voicemail asking for a callback to discuss my labs. I assumed they were going to call me soon anyhow to drop the bomb. An hour passed, then 2, then, 4 on and on. At 2pm I called again. To give a friendly reminder that I was waiting for a callback. While in my head my wheels were spinning a mile a minute. I literally spent 90% of the day googling these labs and googling Lupus trying to figure out if my self-diagnosis was true of false. Remember when I told you I’m a nutball? Facts people. Facts.
At 4:15 my doctor called me back. Turns out she was waiting on one other test result before calling me. She was hoping they would have come in before she called, but they hadn’t. She started to list of everything that was good about my labs. My stomach started to sink. I knew this drill. It is like management 101. When you’re giving an employee feedback, you’re supposed to tell them all the good things first before you clobber them with the bad. That’s what this had to be right? Finally, she got to the two tests I was dreading. Do you want to know what she said? She said, “These numbers are slightly elevated but it’s nothing to be worried about at this time.” If I wasn’t sitting passenger in my BF’s car, I would have probably done a standing back tuck. Well at least I would have imagined myself doing one in my head. I immediately told her about how I had spent the last 24 hours living in the google hole. She profusely apologized for waiting to call. I couldn’t be upset, because it made sense that she wanted to wait for all labs prior to calling. She had no idea how much experience I have interweb sleuthing. During our first visit, I mentioned to her that I have anxiety. I think she severely underestimated just how panicked my anxiety can make me. Ooops!
I did get some very interesting feedback though. She said my cervical spine (where I have most of my pain) looked off (well she used a fancier medical term) on the x-ray. She asked the radiologist about it and he said it looked like I had experienced some sort of blunt force trauma. A car accident or a fall of some sort. Then it hit me. Back in 2015 I took a horrible fall during CrossFit. My hands slipped off the pull-up bar while doing a movement called toes to bar. I flew off the bar and landed on concrete. My lower back hit first and then my head/neck followed. The ER had scanned my lower back, but never my neck. It is very likely that the pain issues I’m experiencing now are a result of that. I will be getting an MRI soon, and will have more info to report to all of you at that point.
For today, I am celebrating that google and I were as wrong as can be. I am celebrating that the only major autoimmune disease I have to deal with is one that ONLY takes my hair. How lucky that I can have my health in all other aspects. As for the labs and the future, welp I’m not totally sure. We are going to keep an eye on them and make sure they don’t spike. If they do, then I will cross that bridge when I get there. For now, I will continue counting my blessings and continue living my best bald life.