"Find a rheumatologist you trust." This was one of the many messages shared during the Joint Decisions VideoChat this month "Shaping Your Story: Managing the Mental and Emotional Challenges of Life with RA." While I think this message is huge and often takes more time than we would like, I believe it is equally important to find a rheumatologist that trusts you.
When I was first diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis I naturally assumed I could trust my rheumatologist. However, I came home time after time in tears. It wasn't because he was an awful rheumatologist, he just wasn't a good match for me. My husband often said, "think of him as your drug dealer and nothing else." At the time, I was also working closely with my naturopath who provided an abundance of what I needed in the "trust" category so I was able to adopt this attitude towards my rheumatologist. With my naturopath I could ask questions about the medications I was taking and get an answer back that didn't sound like a monotone commercial stating all the scary side-effects, but instead of someone who actually cared about me. More importantly, I could share my fears and frustrations with her. In the early years, I was extremely vulnerable. I hadn't found my voice yet. I desperately needed someone to trust and for me it was my naturopath. I'll forever be thankful to her for being there for me during the first years while I was learning to trust myself and my decisions.
I've been working with my current rheumatolgoist for five years now. She definitely doesn't meet all my needs (nobody really does, do they?) but I do feel comfortable with her and I trust her. Better yet, I feel like she trusts me too. That's pretty powerful. After a recent weekend SOS to the on-call physician for hip pain, I received an email from my rheumatologist before the weekend ended asking how the prednisone was going and then early Monday morning I received a call from her office with further instructions. After feeling that I was being treated like a newbie with the on-call physician over the weekend, it felt wonderful to get verification that my rheumatolgoist took my word that I was in pain and put things into motion right away. X-rays were immediately ordered (I'm still practically perfect in every way!!!) and because my rheumatologist believes there is pain as I have stated, we are moving forward with a ultrasound in two weeks to further investigate the pain. Even though I have been feeling pretty well overall for five years, my rheumy has reminded me every appointment that if I need prednsione not to hesitate. Knowing she trusts my knowledge of my body gave me the courage to call the on-call back and request more than four Advil every eight hours.
We are reminded over and over that rheumaotid arthritis is with us for life. The longer we deal with the ups and downs, the better we are at knowing our individual bodies. We are constantly listening and learning. We become the experts on our own bodies and deserve to have a health care advisor that we trust to share our findings with, knowing that they also trust us enough to respond quickly.