Hello everyone. I joined this wonderful site XXX years ago but other than my first ‘I’ve got a question’ post my only participation has been reading discussions on several topics. So I’ll introduce myself. Again.
Let me preface with a bit of personal info. I am 61 and have lived in Alaska well over 40 years. I currently live in Juneau but many of those years were way off grid in ‘the bush’ far from (remember, this was the pre-electronic era) phones, electricity, running water, stores, doctors, etc. One tends to get used to taking care of oneself and doesn’t even think of going to a doctor short of an injury involving a lot of blood or Very Serious illness. I’ve survived a few of both. I have been living in and around Juneau and ‘civilization’ for about 30 years. I prefer to think of myself as resilient and resourceful rather than nuts. But probably all of the above.
I was diagnosed with PsA several years ago. And, like many of you, only after a constellation of seemingly unrelated odd stuff appearing and disappearing. The delayed diagnosis was in part to the fact that I have always had ‘good skin.’ So much so that I’ve often been told, even by total strangers, “You have beautiful skin.” Go figger. However in my childhood I had what in retrospect was psoriasis on my scalp but it was put down to just really bad, dry dandruff and nothing to trouble a doctor about. And all my life I’ve had ugly lumpy fingernails with thick skin under them and that sometimes detached from parts of the nail bed and snap off. The finger tips would also peel, crack and bleed. It was not until I was in my mid 50s that I figured out that I most likely had psoriasis and PsA. Living in Juneau is wonderful. Until you need one of the many specialist that we do not have in town.
I finally saw a dermatologist who diagnosed psoriasis. Armed with that information I went to my exceedingly wonderful GP (who never doubted something was wrong but couldn’t figure it out) and asked for a referral to a rheumatologist. My choices were to fly to Anchorage (1 1/2 hours away by jet) or Seattle (2 1/2 hours away by jet). The best ones are in Seattle, which is a far nicer city to visit anyway (sorry Anchorage but it’s true) so I went to see one of the rheumatologists his office works with. The appointment went well. I had a diagnosis. Yay!!! It was not all in my head (yes, that had been a suggestion ) and we decided to start with Plaquinel, the ‘safest’ med, first. I wanted to start least toxic first since I am a long term survivor of a particularly deadly ovarian cancer and have had more than my share of drug fun. Chemo was the beginning of my journey from text-book-healthy to Hades-in-a-hand-basket.
The Plaquinel may have been helping but I just couldn’t hack the side effects. Psoriasis in places it’s NEVER been, fingernails falling off, spacial disorientation, memory issues…aaaccckkkk! So I stopped taking it. Shortly after I was notified that my doc would no longer be seeing patients as he was going into research. I wasn’t too keen on seeing the other doctor my clinic works with. I’d heard some quite undesirable things multiple times about him and I’d had enough fun in Nasty Doctor Land. Not going back there. So I was without doctor or meds but c’est la vie.
Finally after about another year I decided I should probably be getting some sort of treatment so I found another doc. This one did a decent exam, though nothing spectacular, drew blood, took X-ray, etc. I could not stay in Seattle for days waiting for an MRI so I got that done in Juneau. She agreed that I had PsA but offered no treatment and just said to contact her office if I have a flair. Keep in mind that it can take 3 months to get an appointment. And I have to fly 2 1/2 hours. One way. So I felt pretty much dismissed.
So here I am. The only med I have had for several years is Celebrex. My wrists are starting to change. I have an appointment with an orthopedist next week for heel pain that sometimes feels like I’m walking on jack stones. My spine is getting stiffer. My sacrum sometimes screams. My hands are losing strength and dexterity. And that’s just the big stuff. My GP has asked if I don’t think it’s time to see another rheumatologist. Well yeah! But I’m not going to Drs Nasty and Dismissive. I don’t know if it’s a serious faux pas to ask if anyone knows or has a doctor in Seattle they really like. I can not afford to make multiple trips between Juneau and Seattle searching for one. Not to mention the hotels and transportation associated with such a foray. Any help or ideas would be greatly appreciated.
I apologize for the length and organ recital. Hoping for brevity I’ve cut to the chase and left out a lot of medical stuff. I really don’t want to be all whiny. I’m just a bit frustrated. Sorry.