Since then, it's been miracle after miracle. I thought I was alone, which was a reasonable thing to believe. There are only around 350 of us with this disease. How difficult was it going to be to find another person my age with this disease? Someone who I could talk to and compare notes with... There are over 900 million active users on Facebook. That's like looking for a needle in a haystack of needles! And then I found my Unicorn Sister... a woman my age, with all the same symptoms, down to the elusive pain that was being dismissed by all our doctors. I was no longer alone, and when I wrote my blog entries struggling with my life, she would write me little notes, like, "I feel like you're inside my head, writing just for me." Oh, how that warmed my heart and made everything awful I had been going through worthwhile!!
I also had several things happen, which I though I would never see in my lifetime. A CURE!!! My disease is rare. There aren't fancy ribbons or marathon walks for Autoimmune Hypophysitis. Most of my doctors had never even heard of it until I walked in their door. People with diseases like mine don't get big, fancy, superstars like Venus Williams (Sjogren's Syndrome) or Lady Gaga (Lupus) to speak for them. We don't have collection jars next to the cash register. No one cares! Why should they? Cure cancer, and that would affect millions. Cure Autoimmune Hypophysitis, and that's maybe 400 people. I thought I would die of this disease. I thought it would be the eventual cause of my death. And then there was a cure: Two small observation reports (because there are even too few patients to have a study) showed that a combination of azathioprine and advanced steroids for 16 weeks, eliminated all traces of my autoimmune disease.
I was having trouble with doctors back then. First, I couldn't get an appointment to see the specialist I needed. Then, after seeing the local specialist, I ran into a lot of trouble. She didn't believe I had my disease, and thought that if I were to come off my medication, I would be fine. I had further problems where the tests that were supposed to be ordered, never were. But even after tests were completed and showed abnormal results, she still refused to believe I should be on any medication. I thought I had reached a dead-end. I tried going to another doctor at the same clinic, but she was a fellow, and this other doctor was a teacher, so not much happened there but more friendly stonewalling.
But then, my old endocrinologist---the one who had seen me during my original diagnosis---she got promoted to head of neuroendocrinology at Swedish Hospital in Seattle. As I told my roommate, "I couldn't have wished for better!" I knew I had to get back to Seattle, and I had no idea how I was going to afford it, but then all my followers pitched in, and I was able to go. I was able to meet with my old doctor and establish myself as a patient of hers again. She hadn't heard of the cure, but she's in the process of researching how to go about doing it, right now! She found one of the authors at Stanford, and she's waiting to hear back from him.
In the meantime, Dr. Broyles reminded me that I had an old MRI in my file, that if the neuroendocrinologist had just bothered to look at it, she would have seen my pituitary inflamed, and I possibly wouldn't have had to go through all that trouble of trying to prove I-had-what-I-said-I-had. I'm still working with Hospital Administration at CU on that one. I'm also working with hospital administration at a different hospital, for missing two 7mm kidney stones, and misdiagnosing me with PMS. Whoops. That was a huge ordeal that I'm still trying to manage (I need to get me a better way to tip upside-down). I'm also waiting to hear back from the Stone Center of the Rocky Mountains to see what sort of diet changes I can do, to prevent them reforming in the future.
Finally, and certainly not least, I got pain control!!! This was another big one that I thought would never happen in my lifetime. For one, narcotic pain killers just aren't that good at killing my pain. They work wonderfully on some things. But for the daily pain I was experiencing, they were terrible. I could get overwhelmed by the wooziness of the narcotics, and still be feeling that impossible burning in my hands and feet. Narcotics didn't so much take care of the pain, as they did not make me care about the pain. So, even if my doctors were willing to give me narcotic pain control, I knew it would always be incomplete. I knew it would always hover there in the back of my consciousness, no matter how blotto I got. I had hope of maybe finding a sweet spot where the pain wouldn't cripple me and the medication wouldn't either, but that meant getting approved for long-term narcotic care. Not something easily given in this day and age.
My GP started me up on Neurontin again: last time I had used it for the migraines, and it had stopped working altogether. This time it was for the nerve pain, and it seemed to help some. But I did have the scary experience of my first seizure, when I made the mistake of trying to ramp down too quickly. That, along with another medication, kept me going enough so that I could keep going to doctors. I went to a neurologist, who was finally able to diagnose my pain as small fiber neuropathy. That diagnosis, along with steps I took myself (willing to do physical therapy), finally got someone to take my pain seriously. The first pain clinic I went to was not able to treat me, but I was able to find another clinic, and there I ran into the wonders of methadone. It was like someone attached a light switch to my pain, and simply turned it off. Nothing short of a miracle.
Throughout this all, I have been involved with counseling to help me with my Medical PTSD. I'm terrified of doctors, because I've had some very bad things happen to me at the hands of doctors. The greatest of which was a MRSA infection, which almost killed me in 2008. Through counseling, medication (#headmeds), and progressive success with my doctors ("progress, not perfection..."), I was able to really bring my anxiety under control. Oh, I still have my moments... but I know that they are moments that will pass. Even though my body is not a safe place to be, I can still manage it well enough that I know I can make it through. Though I may experience catastrophic moments, (like an adrenal crisis while camping), I've got the skills and support where I know I'll survive. Yes, I am going through life experiences that are terrifying. It's reasonable for me to lose it every once in a while. So long as I don't lose it on anyone else, that's okay. I can be calm in my doctors appointments, explain myself so that I'm heard, and get the treatment I need. If I run into a doctor that refuses to treat, it's not the end of the world. I can start over with a new doctor, and eventually find someone who can help me get better.
I didn't entirely believe that I could get better at first, but I carried that belief with me, until it came true. I was hoping for enough pain control, and I got even better. I was hoping for management of my autoimmune problem, instead a got a cure. I was hoping to deal with the loneliness my disease, instead I got a sister to share with. I thought I would struggle to return to work, and then I found I'd already started my life's work, right here.
Ya know... I think I might just stick with this blogging thing. It just might be good for me! ;^D
Thank you for joining me in my incredible year.