What if sharing our experiences could save someone else's life? I'm hoping to do so by explaining how the past few months have been extraordinarily tough for me both physically and mentally. It's taken 3 doctors and lots of testing to figure out what was going on in my body. It started with muscle wasting over the last year but then followed up with nerve pain. Horrible acne was the next symptom starting around the holidays, proceeded by slowed digestion, mood swings, insomnia, carbohydrate and sugar cravings, headaches and no menstruation. Then the muscle and nerve pain was so severe I had to stop exercising and even felt tender to the touch.
The first physician I went to suspected adrenal fatigue. Later to find out, adrenal fatigue is sort of a 'catch-all' term and can be indicative of other conditions. I knew something else was up because I was no where near on track to getting back to myself. My intuition was right. This lead me to the next doctor, a Naturopath, where I was given more supplements. We did no testing though and although at the time I understood due to all the testing I already completed, however looking back I feel it was a wrong move. This appointment left me with the idea I may have had Rocky Mountain Fever.
Finally, a 3rd doctor. This was also a Naturopath physician, who I ironically met at the local farmer's market. I was so impressed by the level of knowledge and the type of consultative approach she took. Looking at things on a cellular level, we did more testing and she brought up something no one else even thought of- my IUD. I ended up having copper toxicity. It's amazing that something like this nearly shut my body down. Come to find out, copper allergy and copper toxicity can cause death if ignored long enough, so she may have even saved my life. My blood work came back showing improper levels related to metabolism, muscle, brain and kidney function. I also had high white blood cells and iron showing my body was fighting something off. These did not show up in previous tests because those tests were not as thorough.
The reason I tell my story is not to do simply that, but it is in hopes to advise others on how they can advocate for their health as well. Here are some ways I recommend doing so to make sure you are getting the help you see fit:
1. Check yourself. When you have symptoms, don't self diagnose but see what comes up in a search. Get specific though. Don't look up headaches and nausea and assume you have a terminal illness. For me, one search was 'hormones, adrenal fatigue, neurotransmitters'. Then all the related articles came up encompassing all the search terms and it was oriented more to my situation. This still does not mean the articles are 100% accurate, but it at least expands your knowledge base on the subject of you and prompts questions. Continue to do this if you get test results back and learn what exactly the doctor talks with you about. A great way to understand blood test results is through Lab Tests Online.
2. Ask 'dumb' questions. Whether you are seeing a Naturopath or regular medical doctor, write down everything you want to discuss before your visit and ask them questions. Do not assume your questions are dumb. Ask whatever you need to. This ensured me that I left nothing out in the time I had with them, which for most doctors is very little. You're paying for their time so make sure you get the most bang for your buck and the best results for your health. I would also ask about any testing that is recommended and be curious as to how thorough they are. Not all laboratories and tests are the same, and sometimes doctors will run the simplest versions first.
3. Get a second opinion. Even though what one doctor says might sound credible, I encourage a second opinion. Especially after going through what I did, if I would have stopped at the first physician, I would still be in a ton of pain and my quality of life and relationships would have continued to suffer.
4. Trust your gut. Yep, only you know you. Sometimes the best information on our health comes from us. Really tune into to what's going on inside you and try to communicate it as effectively as possible. If you feel unsure of the care you are getting, ask or look elsewhere. That leads me to my final thought...
5. Be resilient. Keep going until you have an answer. One of the most frustrating parts for me was that I kept getting the run around and even when I received a partial diagnosis, all the information may not have supported it. It may have cost me more money in the long run by going to multiple doctors, but who knows what kind of condition I would be paying for in the future if I had let it go.
In the end, we are the the biggest piece to our health puzzle and if we do not make it a priority, we cannot expect others to. How have you struggled in getting the care you need? What actions did you take?