Medical Symptoms and Burying the Lede

heartAfter a referral to a neurologist turned out to be mostly a waste of time, I went back to the physician’s assistant at my primary doctor’s office on Tuesday.

You know what, before I go any further, I just want to say that as medical professionals go, this PA is amazeballs. She’s one of the most personable people I’ve ever met. She listens, she looks up stuff she’s not familiar with, and she’s not afraid to dig for answers when they’re not staring her in the face.

But back to my story. After a 45-minute chat with the PA, I said something that made her eyes get kind of big. She was going through a sort of flow chart related to my complaints of muscle weakness and asking me questions to see what could be ruled out completely and what might need further investigation. “This,” she said, “is related to the heart. You’re so young, that it’s not very likely. But we might want to explore it if you have a family history of heart disease.”

“Well, my grandfather had a couple of heart attacks later in life, and my dad underwent a procedure for WPW syndrome and had a heart attack last year.”

She wrote that information down and then asked if I ever felt short of breath. “Sure,” I said, not even thinking it was a big deal.

“Like when?”

“Well, like when I go up a flight of stairs or walk down the hall.”

Apparently, when it came to listing my symptoms, I had buried the lede. But after being weight shamed by The Rheumatologist from Hell, I thought I was getting winded because I was fat now. Until that moment I hadn’t seen shortness of breath as a symptom so much as a personal shortcoming—despite the fact that even the most gluttonous of humans rarely put on 30 pounds in a few months.

She sent me down the hall for an EKG and chest X-ray immediately after the appointment.

This morning, a nurse called to let me know that my EKG showed signs of atrial enlargement. The next step is to go in for a cardiac stress test on Monday afternoon. Should be loads of fun, considering my annual employment review will take place that morning!

The nurse told me to wear comfy clothes and shoes, to eat nothing for 2 hours before my appointment, and to expect the stress test to last 2 hours.

My PA also ordered more blood tests, but I have to fast for those and haven’t been back yet. Maybe by Tuesday I’ll have that done too. One of the tests she’s ordered is for my thyroid.

Depending on whether they’re seeing the irregularities on the right or left atrium, this heart shit could very well be an indication that I’m hypothyroid, despite being on levothyroxine (Synthroid).

As I mentioned in an earlier rant, one of the rare but serious side-effects of taking duloxetine (Cymbalta) is hypothyroidism. It’s listed right there in the drug information that accompanies my refills. Sure makes me wonder why The Rheumatologist from Hell denied there could be any connection with my weight gain and my thyroid and didn’t want to order thyroid tests after I’d been on the Cymbalta for a few months. Of course it’s too early to say for sure what’s going on. But if your patient is complaining that something’s not right, why the hell wouldn’t you check it out?

While I get fatter, my mobility continues to decrease, and the search continues for answers, there’s a pretty bitter part of me that wishes I knew more about malpractice law.

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This too shall pass…

…Like a motherfucking 3-inch gallstone crammed all up in a bile duct.


I talked with the lending officer this morning. We’ll call her Kay. “I did some more research on the mortgage program you wanted to apply for. I don’t do many of these, so I’m sorry I didn’t know all of the details right away. Unfortunately one of the stipulations for getting this kind of mortgage is that you can’t currently own a home.”

“Oh,” I said. I wanted to explain how it was all so unfair. How I tried selling it and couldn’t. How I couldn’t live there now even if I wanted to. But I knew it didn’t matter. It wasn’t her call.

“If you had been able to sell the property in Indianapolis outright, you could qualify,” Kay said. She was being very delicate with her words. “At this point,  you’re not entirely out of options though. If the buyers get financing earlier than anticipated, you can complete the sale. Or if a family member or friend wants to gift you the down payment for a conventional loan, that’s a possibility.”

Kay’s a kind human being. She let me down as gently as possible. I do appreciate that.

Unfortunately, I don’t know anyone with $26,000, let alone $26,000 to spare. And although my renter/buyers still haven’t paid this month’s rent or responded to my email about when it might show up — I’m locked into a contract with them. If they do end up defaulting I can kick them out and start over, but I have to wait for all of that to play out according to the terms of the contract. Starting over with the nightmarish process isn’t exactly something I’m eager to do anyway. And what about the fees I paid to both agents at the time the contract was signed? Is that money just gone?


I’ve contacted my agent from the sale, and she is sympathetic and looking into the situation for me. However, I am not comforted. According to the contract, if they don’t pay what’s due plus the late feel by April 1, they officially default. I can make them leave and the contract is void at that point, but April 1 is also the day my mortgage for that shithole is due.

Oh and did I mention that I lost my homestead tax exemption because I don’t live in the place anymore? Thanks, Universe. I was secretly hoping you’d claim $1,400 more from me in taxes on a PROPERTY I DON’T FUCKING WANT!

Aaaaaaand fibromylagia flare followed by debilitating depression in 3…2…

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The Bloody Turnip

Last weekend, one of the local news stations wrote about a state grant program that helps the monetarily challenged buy homes. So, of course, I went and got my hopes up.

I was overjoyed at the thought of being able to adopt a puppy. Have a dishwasher. And grow some food in the back yard.

I went and mentally redecorated the perfect little 1960s ranch on Pinterest for god’s sake. I have new light fixtures picked out for it. I even pinned the kind of toilets I want for the bathrooms. Look, I know it’s risky to make those kind of plans in your head, but I wanted to feel happy for a minute. I don’t think I could survive without a little daydreaming now and again. It has always been a part of how I cope.


Today, Dan and I met with a lender to see if they would give us a ton of money. The answer wasn’t an outright “no.” Like everything else in my life, it has to be infinitely more complicated than that. After looking over the novel of paperwork I printed off, the lending officer said to us, “This isn’t a straightforward case, and I’ll need some time to crunch the numbers before I can get back to you.”

But before that she said, “It’s going to be very close.”

When I was younger, that kind of sentiment might have left me hopeful. But not now. Things don’t seem to fall in place for me like they used to. And it’s like I can trace all my financial woes back to one horribly wrong decision — marrying my first husband way back in 2004.

When he and I were first looking for a house, he would have nothing to do with reasonable homes that seemed like a good investment. We spent a couple of months searching, and finally I said to him. “Just pick something. We have to live somewhere.” And he did.

And then a few years later, fully engrossed in obtaining my degree, I trusted that he was making a good decision by refinancing so we could reduce some credit card debt.

Mother of God was I wrong. By the time the paperwork was signed, we had cashed out a couple grand and paid down one credit card (his, if memory serves) in exchange for a new mortgage with an unholy 7% interest rate. The folks at Wells Fargo sure saw him coming. Too bad I hadn’t.

A year or so later, he was cheating. He promised to pay for the divorce and leave, so I filed the paperwork myself at the courthouse for about $150. But guess what? Lying liars lie. The motherfucker didn’t leave. Turns out I had to hire a lawyer to amend the divorce and kick his ass the hell out. To the tune of about $5,000. I also had to assume the 7% mortgage. He moved into a friend’s place or his brother’s place or something, responsible for not even one of his terrible financial decisions.

He didn’t have a lawyer for the divorce and never paid a dime in that regard. In fact, he repeatedly emailed my lawyer. And every time she had to respond to him, I got billed at the rate of $250 an hour. My parents helped me tremendously, but after a while I didn’t have the heart to keep asking them for money. And I put the remaining legal fees on my credit card.

The ex finally moved out one weekend, and I finally got my hard-fought freedom…and undeserved legal debt…and a mortgage on a shitty condo — which we were only able to buy in the first place because of the down payment I brought to the closing from the sale of my very first home, which of course I sold to be with him.

I hated him for a very long time. It was a full and healthy and productive hate. It got me through.

Now I’m ambivalent about him. Sometimes it’s difficult to wrap my brain around the fact that I lived that part of my life. My recollection of his face and voice, for example, are dim and fuzzy, like the plot of a mediocre book I once read. But the way I felt about myself is still pretty fresh. For example, I could still just kick myself for being young and stupid. For unwittingly hitching my wagon to a compulsive liar. For not accepting soon enough that I was always the one making sacrifices, and he was always the one reaping the benefits.

But, you know, a couple of lessons were learned and all that.

Thanks to a supportive family, I got away with ne’er a ding on my credit report. But I haven’t been unable to get ahead or save much of anything. That’s because the condo is still technically mine, even though I’ve moved to Illinois. I still have the same ridiculous 7% interest rate despite inquiring many times about legitimate refinancing. (Its value dropped when the real estate bubble burst, so there’s not enough equity. And it just so happens that I had a condo and a weird kind of loan — neither of which qualified me for federal relief when all those other people were refinancing to get out from under predatory loans that had sunk them.)

All of those circumstances meant I didn’t really have a choice but to accept a rent-to-own style sales agreement last November after my home had been on the market for over a year. Because an outright sale just isn’t complicated enough for my luck. And now the buyers living in my condo are more than a week late with this month’s payment. Every month they get later and later. I emailed my agent to see what happens if they default.

I’m bracing myself for the worst now. Because positive thinking can crush a person. But you know, if 1,200 of you want to send $3 to on PayPal, I promise to move into my little dream home in Urbana and never pay a cent of it back to any of you.

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Something Awesome to Report

iqfgfYou know what my crazy ass symptoms got me? An earlier appointment with my new doc.

After a few friends read yesterday’s post about my worsening symptoms, they encouraged me to call the doctor’s office and see if I could get on a list to be bumped up in case their were cancellations.

I consider myself a moderately smart person, but for some reason this hadn’t even crossed my mind. Part of is that I’m still adjusting to being a professional patient; I’m still learning how to navigate the system. Another part of it is that I’m so focused on these immediate and freaky things happening to my body that I don’t see the whole picture. Thank God for people with a more objective view of this whole thing.

So, this morning I called the doctor’s office directly. The people I talked to were so helpful, I could actually feel a little stress dissipate. I explained that I had a new patient appointment two months out, and asked if they ever put people on a list in case their were cancellations.

That conversation led the medical receptionist to connect me with a triage nurse who asked me about my symptoms and previous diagnoses. I talked about the muscle weakness, the fibromyalgia diagnosis, the Cymbalta, the blah blahbitty blah.  I was on the phone for 30 minutes, maybe spent 5 of those minutes on hold. But both employees were extremely helpful and beyond polite. They were friendly and personable. And the best thing? I have an appointment THIS Friday. Huge relief!

During our chat the nurse actually said to me, “We could squeeze you in tomorrow, but I’m concerned there won’t be enough time for you to talk with the doctor. How about Friday?”

These people care. If I was into hugging total strangers…


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Blah, Blah Pain… Blah, Blah Drunk Walking

fibromyalgia pain don't hurtA couple of weeks ago, I called for help finding a new primary doctor. I meant to write about it then, but the day job has been particularly busy lately. Not a complaint, just a fact.  A fact that means I come home, eat dinner, and watch helplessly as the laundry pile steadily takes over the bedroom, the dining room, the living room…

But do you have a female doctor?

Getting a first appointment with a new doctor was more difficult than I had anticipated. Limiting my search to a female doctor that was accepting new patients ironically means driving to the same town that my former primary doctor is moving to. (I didn’t have a problem with my previous primary doctor, by the way. I just figured since I was dropping the rheumatologist, I’d try to stick with doctors in the same health system.)

At first I was bummed about driving out of town for future appointments, until I looked up directions and discovered that Mahomet is only about 20 minutes away from Champaign.

We’re definitely not in Indianapolis anymore! Twenty minutes is nothing for a few doctor appointments. It took me twice that long to drive to the doctor in Sprawl City, U.S.A.

Another bummer: I can’t get in to see the new primary care doctor until the second week of May! There is so much I want to tell her. Right. Now.

But there’s good news too. This doctor’s online ratings are outstanding. Patients give her 5 of 5 stars for listening to patients, explaining her findings, and spending enough time with patients. She received 3 stars in only one area: availability for scheduling appointments. (You don’t say.)

MS, Black Mold, and (It’s Never) Lupus. Oh my!

In the meantime, things have been getting worse for me. The symptoms (or drug side effects? who the fuck knows) are starting to pile on, and I’m afraid if I don’t record them somewhere, I won’t remember them. Some of them are constant; some come and go and come and go.

  • High blood pressure: 137/102 (Good Lawd!)
  • Heart rate: 92 (WTH?)
  • Constantly choking on food and drink. Sometimes until I cry. Sometimes until my gag reflex makes me puke.
  • Weak muscles everywhere!
    • Arms: Become exhausted when shampooing my hair, trying to lift a bath towel, or holding a hairdryer.
    • Legs: Become exhausted after standing, walking, and climbing stairs. When I use the FitDesk my right leg shakes as I push down on the pedal. My right hamstring always hurts.
    • Core: I can’t suck in my gut or pull my knees to my chest.
  • Awkward, “drunk” walking.
  • Right leg sometimes gives out without warning, and I fall on my ass.
  • Migraines with blurred vision, visual aura, numbness and sensation of extreme pressure in one arm (usually the left arm, but sometimes the right), and the inability to read words (I can recognize if a group of letters is a word, but I don’t know what the word is).
  • Sore, tired feet and weak ankles with sharp pain in the first joint of both big toes.
  • Dizziness — sometimes when walking, sometimes while seated.
  • Teeth clenching at night and while walking or climbing stairs.
  • Oversensitive nerves that cause pain and goosebumps.
  • Sore, tight muscles all over, but particularly in the neck and shoulders. (My neck and shoulders have not been relaxed for over a year.)
  • Sloppy handwriting.
  • Insane itching in my left ear. If the nerve is touched, my left foot curls up and my left leg goes spastic.
  • Weird breathing patterns, hiccups, and yawning … all the fucking time.
  • Sharp chest pain when I sneeze.

As I stare at this list, ugh. It’s hard not to think that fibromyalgia was a bullshit diagnosis from a doctor who was just phoning it in. So I recently started researching diseases and conditions that fibromyalgia mimics. Probably not the best idea I ever had. The results are kind of scary, and going down What-If Road without any real information just adds to the stress.

It’s just…I have to wait until May! And even then I’m not guaranteed any answers. It’s hard not to look for clues and try to make some sense of the crazy.


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