One day, I awoke to discover my left foot had turned into a zombie. Tingling with a sensation more perturbing than mere sleep dust, it felt like a spider made of razors was in there doing morning calisthenics. I reluctantly admitted to myself that I had been in excruciating pain for longer than I could remember. Some days were worse than others. On that particular day, roughly 3 years ago, I could no longer walk without a wall nearby for stability. I sought medical attention, hoping the x-ray would reveal a cracked toe that would eventually heal, but it came back showing all my foot bones intact. The podiatrist was convinced that, with all my toes’ joints inflamed, it had to be rheumatoid arthritis. He then asked if I had a family history of RA, which, sadly, I do.
My first blood test wasn’t convincing enough for my first hopeful rheumatologist to offer me an appointment. In spite of my family history, the lingering debilitating pain in my left foot, as well as recommendations from two physicians, I was denied specialty care. Since then, a subsequent blood test was more convincing. I hit the ratio I was told was required to be considered a candidate for an appointment with the rheumatologist, but my second hopeful specialist also denied me care, noting “not enough inflammation” as her rationale. This without ever seeing me in person, but as a response to both the definitive blood test and lengthy pre-appointment paperwork she required of me. I tend to downplay my physical pain (note the fact that I waited until I could no longer walk on my own before seeking medical care), so I was angry. I could’ve written a more convincing report of my various bodily pains. Would that have made all the difference?
Today, I feel like the dork who can’t get into a special club because she doesn’t know the right password. And what’s worse, it’s a club I would prefer not to patronize. The receptionist for the 2nd rheumatologist hung up on me because I turned into a sobbing mess on the phone, repeating: “What do I have to do to get an appointment?!” She suggested I try another rheumatologist (whose bouncer, I suppose, might be a little more relaxed on her prerequisite policy, if one such specialist even exists within a hundred mile radius).
Most days, I’m walking without wincing or limping now, thanks to dietary shifts. The uncontrollable foot spasms still come and go, but less frequently than when I was a coffee and booze swiller. I accept the fact that no rheumatologist within a day’s drive wants me on their appointment book because I don’t have a convincing enough insurance provider, or, as they note in their files, “not enough inflammation”. This is my green light to celebrate limbo. Why worry what the rheumatologist will say when she thinks you’re not lame enough to see her just yet?