What do you do when your body is telling you one thing,
But your doctors are telling you another?
Who do you listen to? Who do you trust?
There was no injury, old or new. There was no oddity in the structure of my bones. There was one day.
One day I was a healthy 25-year-old who worked on her feet, loved to jog and had always been physically fit and the next I wasn’t.
I was about 5 years into my 10 years working as a hairstylist when this all started. One day I was standing behind the chair, cutting a clients hair, listening as she chatted away, when my left hip went mushy.
That’s the only way to describe it. It was as if someone snuck up, took out my joint and replaced it with a wet sponge.
In true form, I didn’t panic or allude to anything weird going on. I kept working, focusing harder on my clients hair, smiling and nodding as she kept talking, all the while hoping whatever was happening would stop by the time I needed to move again because frankly my left leg felt like it was no longer attached to my body and I thought for sure I was going to face plant.
Luckily, a few minutes later, I was a little shaken, but things seemed to go back to normal.
Back then of course I had no idea what I’d just experienced, but now I can tell you what it was. It was a 4-alarm, all-hands-on-deck warning signal that everything I knew to be “normal” was about to end.
The pain that would soon become my constant companion set in the next day. I limped around day in and day out, convincing myself whatever was wrong would correct itself.
Several weeks later my resolve started wearing thin. I was 2 days into a beach vacation with a group of friends when I wound up quarantined to a dilapidated lounge chair with a hot pink inflatable inner-tube shoved under my hips because the pain was so intense I was seeing double.
And yet, it still took a couple more weeks and my right hip starting to hurt too before I finally waved the white flag and made an appointment to see my doctor.
A series of x-rays and a blood panel later my doctor said, “Well, there seems to be a bit of narrowing in the joint, but nothing alarming. Your blood work is looking borderline for rheumatoid arthritis, so I’m going to refer you to a rheumatologist.”
While this wasn’t news anyone wants to hear, it also wasn’t alarming. My aunt has rheumatoid arthritis, and hers also started in her hips. Finding out I might have it wasn’t shocking. So, I took the referral, and made an appointment.
The rheumatologist took a look at my x-rays, ordered another blood panel and then said, “I don’t see anything concerning here. Your blood work isn’t close enough for me to diagnose RA. You’re young and otherwise healthy. Whatever is causing your pain will likely correct itself. Take ibuprofen as needed. It should be fine.”
That was it. He sent me on my way. But not before saying exactly what I wanted to hear - it will likely correct itself, it should be fine.
That is the moment I reached a fork in the road - one direction was to say “NO. I know something isn’t right here. I know this isn’t normal. I know you’re wrong. ORDER MORE TESTS.”
The other direction was to ignore what my body was screaming at me to hear. It was the road that said “I don't want anything to be wrong. This kind of stuff doesn’t happen to me. I’m too young and healthy for this. I’m choosing to believe everything is fine." This road was the one that said my body was not to be trusted.
I walked out of that doctor's office and went to war with my body.
I was scantily insured. I was young. I’d never had any issues like this before, I was in totally unfamiliar territory and I didn’t have anyone in my corner who could or even knew to step up and fight for me, so there I was, standing at the base of a mountain with no way around and walking on borrowed time.