So there I was, one year into my battle with an unknown illness and still no closer to a diagnosis. Sitting in the exam room of doctor number 5, I nervously went over and over in my head what I would say to get this doctor to listen. I hoped and hoped that this doctor would have some answers.  In my hands I clutched my pages of notes that I had labored over, of all my symptoms and what treatments we had already tried (not many). In the end, it was one of the fastest visits yet.  I do not even think I got to the end of my notes. The doctor simply suggested that I was depressed. Hm….depressed?  Well, that actually did make sense. I was so very sick of watching my life and the life of my husband and young kids go by from the couch. I was so frustrated with not knowing if I could be able to do something the next day; I never knew if I would have any energy or not. I had good days and more and more bad days. I was definitely sad at not fitting in ANY of my clothes, my face being so swollen, constant lung infections and more. I would do ONE load of laundry and have to lay down from exhaustion. Yes, that was certainly depressing. But was depression the main cause of my problems? No, depression was a SYMPTOM -a natural result of what my body was dealing with. But that was the doctor’s conclusion. And then he sent me to a nutritionist.

The conversation with the nutritionist was one of the most frustrating of my life. I tried to show her my weight watchers journals, but she wouldn’t even take a peek.  She started with, “Trisha, you really need to stop drinking pop.  It is so loaded with calories.”  I responded, “But I don’t drink pop.  I do not drink ANY calories.  I haven’t for years.  No pop, no juice, no nothing but tea or water or coffee.”  She didn’t even stop for a breath.  “Really Trish, you have to stop with all the juice too.  All the pop and juice add so many calories to your diet.  You are going to have to start tapering down on them.”  Me: I don’t drink any of those things! Her: Really it needs to stop. (I almost slapped her, but my body was frozen with anger. She kept going) Oh, and Trish you are going to need to stop all the chips and white bread. Me: I don’t eat white bread.  I haven’t in 5 years! And chips are a rarity for me, just once in awhile. Her: yeah. un huh.  Let’s start tapering down on those mmmkay?

I think if I had beaten her senseless at that point, Jesus would have forgiven me.  She had it coming. But instead I trudged back to my minivan.  And I sat staring at nothing.  If I wasn’t depressed before, I sure was now. As a professional and as a person, I wasn’t used to being talked down to.  I wasn’t used to not being believed.  And I REALLY resented being labeled as a hypochondriac/liar for going in for medical help. You would have thought that I told them a story about being abducted by aliens and probed by bigfoot by the speed at which my symptoms were dismissed. I hate leaving a clinic AGAIN feeling defeated, hopeless, rejected- like a failure.

When I was a kid, I always thought that if you had a medical problem, you just had to make it to a doctor- just survive long enough to get to a hospital and then you’ll be fine. The doctors would have all the answers. They’ll be like the heroes on TV, capes and all. It’s such a shock when the blinders come off and you realize  A. They don’t know everything, and they may NOT have the answer to your problem (practicing medicine) B. They may not believe that you really have symptoms or are really sick C. They are so limited as to what they can do, even if they believe you. No cape at all. They are human too. No superpowers.

So what do you do when your “city” is on fire, and you finally reach the superhero and he doesn’t believe you really have an emergency? Or he believes you but has no idea what to do? Or suggests we cover the city in paper towels immediately, and you know that just won’t work?  I realized that I had two choices…..1. Keep fighting, keep trying, keep looking for a doctor that would listen.  Get educated myself on what may be happening.  2. Give up. Resign yourself to the couch and let your family move on with life basically without you.  I am forever grateful that I have an amazing family that wouldn’t let me choose option two.  I called me mother many times and vented and vented. She prayed with me and encouraged me and kept urging me to keep fighting and trying to find someone to help.

You see, hypothyroidism runs in our family.  My mother, both grandmothers and several of my aunts all have it. And it typically is passed from mother to daughter.  My mother was convinced that that was what I was dealing with. And it took my mother YEARS to find an endocrine specialist who knew what to do. It also took the death of her third child (stillborn) to help make the connection- unspeakably tragic.  My mother’s long fight to get her health back, her life back- and raise us girls (and my brother who came along later)- is an inspiration to me to never give up. The war is worth fighting for the hope of a better life on the other end.  So what if 7 doctors dismiss you, if that ONE doctor finally finds an answer or a treatment that gives you your life back? Isn’t that worth one more doctor visit? And another? I am glad now I kept going, one more time. Because an answer for me was right around that next corner………

To be continued: