Jan. 16th, 2015

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I've been disabled all my life. I have not always known why. I don't mean in that, "Why me, Lord?" I mean I didn't have a diagnosis. Not for lack of trying, especially in the beginning. I went through all kinds of tests and back then doctor's were very... let's say "creative" in testing nerves and muscles. No MRI's then either. A test called the nerve conductivity test, takes a special place in my nightmares to this day. Add to this the fact that the hospital we could afford was a teaching hospital. I didn't visit my doctor once without a gang of student doctors poking and prodding me without so much as a how do you do. Then there were all the conversations about my medical health being had all around me, but no one actually talking to me. All of them assuming that I couldn't follow the conversation when I always could. All these things made the medical profession difficult for me to deal with. It's taken a while and to be honest, some big changes in how medical staff are trained to deal with patients to make it even possible for me to have things like a regular doctor.

So my relationship with healthcare is not good and I have largely avoided hospitals including neuro-muscular clinics that might know a little bit more about my disability than a general practitioner. After my pneumonia four or five years ago. Concerns about how my disability was progressing started getting more important. And with a lot of internal struggle I finally got myself to the MD/ALS clinic at Stanford to see what they could tell me. I dreaded it. I was pretty sure there was no good news coming from the clinic, but I am a grown up (sort of) and feel pretty good about this step.

I went to the clinic once and did all right. The clinic doctor asked me whether I wanted to get the genetic test to confirm my diagnosis. I'm old enough that when I got diagnosed there was not a test. Diagnosis was largely a collection of symptoms that suggested I might have this or that disability. I'd been given a diagnosis at 16 but had really done nothing about getting more information. So I said sure let's get the test. They took my blood and I just got a phone call from the clinic a day or two ago. In the time between taking the blood and getting the results, I did feel odd. Not worried or anything. Certainly nothing like the one HIV scare I went through, but just odd. I thought to myself what if I don't have what I have? What would that mean? So very much of my life is a part of my identity as a person with a disability. It's not like I'm not disabled. I clearly am. Whether or not it's the diagnosis I think it is. Anyway, like I said, I received a call recently from the doctor that confirmed that I have what I always thought I have. Nothing has changed, no real treatment. Certainly no cure, but it definitely feels more real. That might not be the right word, more solid, more sure? In another way it makes me kind of laugh. When a doctor calls you on the phone in a very serious voice and tells you that your diagnosis (the one you've had for 40+ years) has been confirmed. It isn't exactly big news anymore, but still it's a part of me now. I know it is part of me and not just a possible part of me.

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stonebender

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