…not just the doctor. Your relationship with your doctor should be a true partnership. 

If there is one thing I have learned over the past five years, since my RA diagnosis, it’s that there is no such thing as cookie cutter medicine. One size definitely does not fit all in the world of autoimmunity. The approach my friend takes to treat her rheumatoid arthritis is not necessarily the path I should take.

I have seen this in my family. I know some people who feel they can’t function without prescription painkillers or other drugs prescribed for their fibromyalgia. Yet one of my relatives, who was diagnosed with that condition years ago, chooses to live with her pain because she felt she could deal with that better than the side effects she would experience with meds.

When I was diagnosed with RA, I was afraid of disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and so I got by with an initial dose of steroids and then NSAIDs. After having shoulder surgery, however, my doctor encouraged me to reconsider because I was not healing properly. I discovered that I didn’t have to begin with methotrexate, but instead found relief with hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil). What a life changer that was! But I had to be ready and willing to go that route: it was my doctor’s recommendation, but ultimately it was my decision.

Recently, my rheumatologist advised me to cut back on my Plaquenil because I was doing so well that she thought I might be in remission. Within a week or two, I was in a horrible flare and so I went back to my full dosage. It took about two months to get my body back on track. On my next visit, I told my doctor I was never trying that again. She also once suggested – during a flare – that I might need to go on something stronger. Yet I’m not ready to go that direction either.

I have learned through trial and error that one of my decision-making techniques is to listen to my body. My doctor may be up on the latest medical treatments and what has worked for others, but no one knows my body like I do and it can often guide me into making the best decisions for it.

One of the best tools Pack Health sent me when I first signed up as a member was a little journal. I tracked how well I was working on each aspect of my program, as well as how I felt. It taught me how to see causes and effects in the management of my condition. As my body felt better, I could see what I was doing that made a difference. If I felt worse, I could see some of the reasons for that as well. If I was doing everything “right” but my symptoms continued to get worse, then that was the time to go to my doctor to discuss different treatment options.

Now that I know how to listen to my body and to see how different diet, exercise, medication, and stress management regimens affect it, I can be a better partner with my doctor. I don’t have to give in to someone else’s solution. I can work together with my physician to determine exactly what’s right for me.

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