I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism at age 15, but I wasn't diagnosed with Hashimoto's until I was 24. I had been struggling with symptoms for about 9 years of fatigue, weight gain without explanation, even though my thyroid levels were normal. They found the Hashimoto's Antibodies when they finally did a blood test this past spring, and I got my diagnosis then.
I was diagnosed with Endometriosis 3 weeks ago: June 27th 2018. I have been dealing with chronic painful periods and heavy bleeding for about 14 years, since I was 12 years old. My more recent symptoms of severe pelvic, rectal, and lower back pain have been present for the last 2 years prior to my diagnosis.
I am blessed to say that I will be attending the Physician's Assistant program at ECU in the fall. PA school has been my plan ever since I was old enough to understand medicine at about age 14. However, I would've never imagined that I would go through so many struggles in the medical industry as a patient myself. Being a patient with two invisible illnesses that took years to diagnose has made me realize how many people must be either misdiagnosed or straight up ignored when seen by a physician. I was told by multiple doctors that nothing was wrong with me, and even my own gynecologist didn't think I had endometriosis. When I finally saw a specialist, she instantly believed me and took me seriously, laid out my options, and then we took action. This made me realize exactly the kind of PA I wanted and didn't want to be. I will now do my very best to not be dismissive of my patient's symptoms, and will listen with an open mind and an empathetic heart when they tell their story. I will put every resource I have access to towards figuring out what is causing their pain, or refer them to someone who might be able to do it better. I want to be the kind of PA that makes their patients feel as relieved as I did when someone finally believed me! I believe that struggling with this has caused me to become a better health care provider, a better listener, and ultimately a better person. I will even potentially look into endocrinology or woman's health for a specialty!
The main thing that I like to tell people is just because someone doesn't look sick, doesn't mean they aren't. I went to work, friends houses, family events, and even the gym when I was at my worst. I have excused myself from countless occasions to try and pull it together so that I could feel normal again. It is extremely important that just because someone isn't visibly sick, that means you can dismiss their symptoms, feelings, and experiences. Believe someone when they confide in you and tell you what is going on, do not try and make it seem less than it is because they can get up and go about there life every day: it isn't that easy.
I always considered myself an empathetic person, but these experiences have caused me to develop a sense of unconditional trust in people. I do not mean this in a naive or immature way. I mean this in a way where if someone is complaining continuously about something going on, I listen and try and help them instead of brushing it off as "someone being dramatic." At my old job as a medical assistant, the patient who used to sound crazy became the medical mystery I was desperate to solve. I stopped being judgmental of other's experiences and used it as an outlet to try and learn more about them, and also get them the help they need instead of dismissing it as dramatics. I believe that this will make me the type of PA that will be motivated and determined to help my patients in any way that I can, and I will stop at nothing to make sure everyone's story is heard.
Something I would tell someone who has been newly diagnosed with an invisible illness: you are not alone!! It may seem isolating when your friends are out doing something and you have to stay at home because of your symptoms or condition. Find support in others who are going through similar things, whether that be an in-person support group or an online group or resource to reach out to others going through something similar. Sit down with your friends and family and explain to them what is going on in a way that will make sense to them. Let them know your limits, your weaknesses, and what they can do for you to be helpful. It is never wrong or embarrassing to ask for help, and if they know what is going on, they can work with you in a way that is tailored to your illness and makes it a lot less lonely.