What’s your diagnosis?
Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease
When were you diagnosed?
Officially, 2014. Unofficially, 2009.
How long have you had symptoms?
Have you been limited in any way from your illness? If so, how?
Yes. I had to take a leave of absence from school, lost a job.
What’s your story?
In 2005, I came down with the flu and never really recovered. I was exhausted and was sleeping 12-16 hours a day, I had intense joint and bone pain, low grade fevers, and rashes. All of my bloodwork, except for my ANA and ESR, were normal. My doctor at the time decided that my symptoms were all due to my depression and anxiety, and sent me on my way. Over the next 9 years, my symptoms remitted and relapsed, and each physician I saw chalked it up to stress or depression or hormones. It was so demoralizing. I felt like a crazy person. Eventually, my hands were in so much pain that I could barely brush my teeth or hold my steering wheel. My allergist referred me to a rheumatologist, and despite my mostly “normal” labs, he said something I will never forget. “I don’t know what is going on, but something is definitely going on and you have symptoms that we can treat.” It’s not perfect, but it’s been so much better since I started treatment with him!
How has your illness changed your life?
It made me more aware of my limits, and forces me to be much more careful with my energy and time. I learned to say “no,” but still say “yes,” when I can.
What are your goals for the future? (Not related to your health)
Short term, I want to finish my first year of medical school in May and have a productive and relaxing summer (it’s the only one that I get!) Long term, I want to start a family with my husband, do a little bit of traveling, and graduate from med school in 2018.
What are your goals for the future? (Health related)
I would like to implement an exercise routine, because I know it will benefit my mental and physical health. I would like to minimize my joint pain and increase my energy.
Do you consider yourself handicapped or disabled? Why or why not?
I struggle a lot with this. Some days, I don’t feel disabled, and some days I do. The days where it exhausts me to wash my hair or walk up a single flight of stairs, I feel disabled, for sure.
What would you like readers to take from your experience?
I want people to know that just because someone doesn’t look disabled doesn’t mean that they aren’t struggling with their health in some way. I want people to know that even though they might feel like they can’t achieve their goals because of their illness, it is never too late. I never thought that I would go back to medical school, but here I am!
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