Last week I had my quarterly appointment with my Rheumatologist. I’m not going to lie: I was freaking out. I’ve been anxious every day since I got my blood work done two weeks prior to that visit. I’m always a mess prior to my doctor visits because of the “unknown” that comes with these appointments. I might think I’m fine, but my rheumy might see otherwise as he examines my joints.
My biggest fear was that he would think it necessary to put me on a stronger medication like Methotrexate. That’s the last thing I want to put in my body. I already felt awful about taking my prescription anti-inflammatory. I suppose it comes from belonging to a family that believes in the power of homeopathic treatments. Or maybe it comes from all of the black box warnings that come with my anti-inflammatory.
I sat in the doctor’s office nervously tapping my foot. Was I about to receive news that would flip my future upside down? Or would I instead be told that everything looks decent enough and that I could stay on my current treatment plan, but that there was no real improvement? The second scenarios is just as frustrating as the first. The second scenario shows no change, no progress. It doesn’t bring a person closer to pain-free days. It just means that your medication is doing the bare minimum. The only thing working in my benefit was that I wasn’t in pain at that moment in time. I hadn’t felt anything more than some random aches for a week, and I’m pretty sure those aches were a result of many hours spent on the computer.
My rheumy called me into his office then. He asked me how I was feeling, as always. “Better than usual,” I said. He took my hands and began examining them.
“Your hands look great,” he said, feeling my knuckles, “no inflammation whatsoever. Are you taking your anti-inflammatory?” I shook my head. “That’s a great sign,” he continued, “no pain?”
“I haven’t been in pain at all for a week. I started taking fish oil.” He continued examining my elbows and knees.
“Well, I don’t know how much the fish oil contributed, but I think you’re in remission. Let’s look at the numbers.” He pulled out my report and started reading off the results, comparing them to the last test. “I think you’re in remission. Keep doing whatever you’re doing.”
Remission. When I first diagnosed, that was the thing I wanted most in the whole world. Now three years to the month of my diagnosis, I’ve achieved it. I was floating on a cloud, and I wanted to tell the entire world how happy I was. I ran to my one on-campus job just to tell my boss the good news. She had been trying to help me find natural cures. I told every coworker who would listen. And even though I’m not the kind of person who likes to air all of my business on Facebook, I posted about it there too. 70 people “liked” my status and congratulated me. I was touched that people cared, at least enough to comment with congratulations and well wishes.
Now, how did I really know when I was in remission? I knew it was for real when I picked up a skinny Papermate pen and could sign my name without pain. I couldn’t hold back the tears anymore. I sat in my room and sobbed. This was real.
I know it’s not permanent. Remission isn’t a cure, only a period where the disease lies dormant. I may flare again next week. I may not flare for another few months or years. But trust me when I say that I’m making the most of this moment, the fact that I’m in little to no pain, and that I’m seriously loving my life right now.