At 6am this morning, I sat by my bedroom window, smoking a joint and listening to the geese calling on the marshland while the sun peeked through the black clouds in the sky, and I considered yesterday’s appointment with Mr B.
All Monday night, I was smoking furiously. Drinking cup after cup of strong coffee. Anything to stop myself tipping over a precarious emotional edge. Got out of bed and tidied. Went downstairs and ate half a sultana and cherry cake. Sat and stared at the muted TV screen, watching the PS3 graphics float around. By 7am the room was filled with a haze of smoke and incense, and the floor was littered with empty mugs and Rizlas. Sleep would have been impossible, so I didn’t even try.
I tied my hair up and clipped my fringe back, put on a small amount of makeup and got dressed. I almost didn’t bother making any effort at all – I felt so out of sorts – but S wanted to meet me outside the hospital before the appointment and I’ve been absent enough recently without also looking like a total horror. As usual, my mother insisted on coming with me; she has to get involved in these things. She also has an obsession with being early for every appointment and meeting, whereas I prefer to leave it to the last minute so I have time to gather my thoughts, so my anxiety levels were peaking nicely by the time we got to the hospital. S brought his coffee outside and we chatted a little about the appointment, and when he left to go back to the lab he gave me a big hug and a kiss and told me it’d all be fine.
Our hospital is like a rabbit warren, but years of medical emergencies and referrals mean I know the place like the back of my hand. However, my mother always gets convinced she’ll get lost and panics, setting me off. By the time I reached the rhematology waiting room I was a simmering mass of fear and anger, glaring at the other patients and snapping every time she tried to speak to me. An old man a few rows across from us was reading a paperback and looking around him, and I found his movements unbearable. Just as something was going to snap and I flew at him for daring to breathe, Dr B came out of his office and called me in. We chatted about the fibromyalgia diagnosis for a while; whether I still experience any symptoms and how much the pain affects me. He opened my medical records and read for a while, commenting that I spent a lot of time in the hospital. I’d been admitted eight times or so when my gallbladder got infected, and before that I’d seen gynaecologists, ear specialists, doctors for IBS, had tests for Cushing’s and hormone malfunctions, and had cameras shoved into places I don’t want to think about. My life has revolved around hospitals and clinics and, sitting in Dr B’s office, I couldn’t help wondering if this was just yet another specialist with no answers.
However, answers were provided for once. Dr B moved my limbs around, pulling and pushing on my arms and legs and poking me my shoulders and back. He made me lie down and tried to bend my legs towards my chest. Put his hand on my knee and gently bent the joint. The pain was unbearable, but I gritted my teeth and got on with it, determined to take the advice to not hide the discomfort.
I sat back down, and Dr B explained what he’d found. I have osteoarthritis in my knees, hips, hands, wrists and possibly feet and neck/spine. The pain I’ve been experiencing is from the joints degenerating, especially in my knees. The fibromyalgia diagnosis isn’t in question; I still have it, and I’ve had blood taken to test for RA. I need an ultrasound on my left foot, possibly cortisone injections, and he’s hoping to start me on Lyrica if my GP’s surgery agrees to providing such an expensive drug. I have to see my GP in a couple of weeks to discuss any findings from the blood tests and work on a plan to manage the arthritis.
It may seem strange that I thanked Dr B for the news. Even stranger that I actually smiled. I just didn’t know how to react; I nodded and listened to his advice, but all I could hear was “there’s a physical reason why you’re in pain”. I have something which can be seen on a scan, felt under a hand… I have something nobody can deny, and that’s a feeling like no other after years of misty diagnoses and judgement.