Gambling on Life: My First Visit to a Rheumatologist and the Journey to Finding a Diagnosis

This post, like others that will follow it, is a continuation of my Gambling On Life series.

So, it finally happened: I decided to visit a rheumatologist and find out what is wrong with my body.

The first visit was a whirlwind: Paperwork, discussion on symptoms & past treatments, examination of my joints, 7 vials of blood drawn for labs and 15 x-rays were performed.

By the time I was done I was ready to curl up and die, but I was hopeful. Every person I worked with was so kind and compassionate that.. I almost cried. I felt understood for the first time in my life. I felt like there wasn’t an ounce of criticism or judgement.

I felt like they really were there to help me..

..And, well, they tried.

It was the first visit, so I wasn’t expecting a diagnosis yet, but as results trickled into the patient portal for me to see, I became disheartened.

Every. Single. Lab.

Every. Single. X-ray.

Normal.

How? I have been in constant, unceasing pain with limited mobility for so long that you’d expect these labs to have abnormal results somewhere, or my x-rays to indicate severe damage to my joints.

I know better than to try and determine my own diagnosis or interpret my own labs; especially since they ran a limited set focusing on the most common indicators based on my symptoms. They’ll run more, and hopefully we’ll get something showing a positive.

It’s just hard to see that you’ve got a lot more poking and prodding in your future in order to find out just what is wrong with you.

The worst part?

I’m probably going to be paying out of the nose for these labs.

You see, I live in America; we don’t have healthcare, we have sick care.. And only if you can afford it.

I was finally able to afford a higher-tier of insurance that limits my specialist co-pay to $100. My previous insurance didn’t cover specialist visits at all until I hit my (insane) deductible (which was in the vicinity of $6,500).

What isn’t clear, however, is whether the labs are tied to the rheumatologist visit or are billed separately.

You see, if they are tied to the rheumatologist visit, then I don’t pay any extra for them. That’s fantastic.

If they are billed separately, then.. Well..

My insurance doesn’t cover labs, and in order to get it to cover both specialist visits and labs I’d have to pay a MUCH higher premium.

Still, I decided that this year I would finally work towards finding out what is wrong with me and getting treatment; I’ve been getting progressively worse, and it all started when I was a pre-teen, with regular knee pain due to a family doctor’s diagnosis of arthritis.