My day started early – stupid early. I didn’t mean to, but I only got three hours of sleep because like with all other nights before big appointments, my anxiety skyrockets. My alarm was set to go off at 4:55 a.m. but I woke up at 2:35 a.m. I tossed and turned, and then out of habit my fingers found the spot on my left glute and pressed it and I wondered for the thousandth time if I should have it checked by the dermatologist because melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma run in my family and I never date anyone long enough to remember to ask that person to check the mystery spot on my ass that I can’t see myself. Then I checked Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and all of my email accounts. Then I put on a few terribly cheesy movies from Netflix but couldn’t make it past the first 10 minutes before giving up and searching for another one. Finally I turned off my alarm before it sounded and showered and readied myself for the day, and took my handful of morning medications.
The first appointment was at 7 a.m. with the nurse practitioner working with Dr. Afrin at the University of Minnesota; he is the granddaddy of mast cell activation disease and his patient log is backed up so much that he’s booked out one year in advance, so the NP is helping to do the follow-ups. It was our first meeting and it was after my initial follow-up had been postponed in favor of more testing, so I was already preparing myself for the absolute worst. After all, I have gotten the speech so many times: “I’m sorry, your tests are inconclusive, so I can’t continue seeing you.”
One of the first things the NP said to me was, “I have never seen a histamine level that high before.” We talked about a lot. She gave me about 15 pages from Dr. Afrin to read – and they are prose-heavy, so it’s going to take some time to go through everything. I’m going to have to do a lot of trial and titering up with the medications to see if I can figure out a dosage and frequency that works. He indicated that we are about a decade out from understanding more about the intricacies of MCAD. The bottom line is, I have it. He might be able to make my life more comfortable but there is no cure.
I talked to the NP about my feelings about sending part of my drainage catheter to the research scientist in MI (if she wants it) to see if mast cells are causing problems on the shunt – maybe that’s what’s causing problems for a lot of shunt patients? Also, the NP has no idea if resolving my histamine and inflammation issues with MCAD will actually make it easier for me to have a shunt inside of me. Also, she had no idea if that’s the reason I needed one in the first place. And because I’m still having a lot of issues brought on by the PTSD/anxiety/depression, I did cry in the appointment (like I do now in all appointments), but only once. All of the sudden towards the end of the appointment, the fluid moved down the shunt and both of my eyes spontaneously opened. She got up to get a light and checked my pupil reflexes, and remarked that she had never seen anything like it. I told her that I never had any warning but I knew that I was a magical number between air pressure, humidity and temp; after a few minutes, the shunt clogged and my eyelids drooped again and everything went back to being paralyzed.
After that appointment, I had to come home and meet with the supervisor from the organization that employed the woman who sent me the fire and brimstone craziness. We had to talk about a lot of different issues including trying to find housing for me (since I can’t live with anyone who has animals – my friends and relatives are all breathing big sighs of relief!) and the public housing list wait list is something like 1-3 years (I have no idea what I am going to do between now and then, though there is something I can apply for with the state of MN that is a status of disability that has nothing to do with money but does get me qualified for services and housing). We also talked about getting me help if and when I get shoulder surgery since I won’t be able to do things like haul around laundry.
This was the first time that I met with this person, and she was asking me to fill in some information about why I was having such a hard time with finding neurologists and neurosurgeons. Every time I have to talk about it, I immediately start crying – that’s what clued my therapist in to the fact that I’ve got PTSD – and it’s emotionally draining. I’ve stopped apologizing for getting upset. So I walked her through the Three Stooges at the U of M who completely sabotaged my case with the NIH Undiagnosed Diseases Network as well as Social Security Disability.
I was supposed to go to a social gathering tonight, but I called to cancel because I wouldn’t have gotten home before 10:30-11 p.m., and I have to get up stupid early tomorrow, around 4:45 a.m. again to see the orthopedic surgeon. I’m really fucking tired. I’m so tired that I’ve been sitting here in the same spot for about 4 or 5 hours and I just realized that I put my lounging dress on backwards (it’s got a scoop neck in the front and a deep “V” in the back) and I really can’t be bothered to fix it. Normally I would be a little mortified, but at this very moment, I do not care.
I think about how this is breast cancer awareness month. I think about how everyone understands the gravity of cancer. I think about how five days after one of my surgeries, someone told me I looked fine, and I probably didn’t need help.
I think about how I never knew it was possible to have a disease that couldn’t be diagnosed for this length of time, and that doctors could turn patients away.
I think about how it’s been 6 years and 3 months since I’ve gotten sick, and I may never know what the real culprit is – but it’s funny that my body kicked it into high gear just as MCAD was beginning to be identified. At least I have that label.
Oh, and the doctor put in my notes that I had a “stunningly good memory for the entirety of my history including specific dates for each event” but that my appearance is a “chronically ill-appearing woman who looks a bit older than her stated age….”
Ouch. I always am guessed to be 8-10 years younger, at least to my face.