A Hopeful Diagnosis (Chronic Pain)

doctor with tablet computer and patient at clinic

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Sometimes getting answers is a challenge. Maybe you one day wake up with pain, another you wake up feeling sick and the only thing you want is to feel better. However, that journey to fixing what ails you can be quite the task. Over the past several months, I’ve been dealing with an excruciating condition that I finally have answers for and treatment, it’s a multi-step process that with time should finally put this diagnosis to bed.

One day, I woke up with what could call “acne” on my legs, I’ll spare the gory details, only to say it was very painful. It felt as if you chafed your skin scraping on something, but I hadn’t done anything of the sort and wondered why I was in pain. I didn’t think this was anything emergent in the beginning but as the days progressed the area swelled and I eventually had to go to the ER because it was so swollen, I couldn’t walk. At the ER the doctors were able to do a procedure to alleviate that pain, and I felt fantastic, immediate relief. However even following up with my PCP, just a few months later, I was at the ER again for the same condition. The procedure was done again and this time it seemed to have worked longer. I still did have really bad days, so while my legs wouldn’t get as bad as before, I’d still have immense pain to the point where I had to bandage myself up to prevent even shorts and jeans from hurting my legs. More doctors’ appointments followed with no real answers until I looked for and found a great dermatologist that I haven’t seen before (and I’ve seen many about this issue) and she created a step-by-step process on how to address it.

The dermatologist didn’t simply say, ‘we’re gonna do this one thing and if it doesn’t work, come back’. Even after the worse of the pandemic, it can be very difficult to see a specialist and when my legs are super hurt, and I’m unable to walk well, I wouldn’t even be able to go into the office. This doctor gave me something to address the problem over time, something to address the flair-ups, and then future medications and interventions that have evidence that will work. And while I would never demean doctors, sometimes, I feel like the 15-minute appointments are entirely too short. It’s almost like speech class with how you have to prepare and then present your condition in a small, allotted amount of time. I just wish healthcare didn’t feel so rushed sometimes.

While I’m still a bit tender in my legs, I can actually walk without immense pain or being bed bound for days at a time waiting for my body to heal properly. I live on my own and it’s very difficult to get support, so it’s either wait it out or push through the pain. My only advice to people is, don’t be afraid to get a 2nd opinion or to really insist that whatever is bothering you is a huge hurdle to overcome. You deserve to be listened to, and hopefully whatever ails you can be treated by a doctor.


Ziggy is a Certified Peer Specialist in PA and currently resides in Pittsburgh. He is a member of the Let’s Act committee, a group of peers devoted to raising awareness about mental health care. In his downtime, he enjoys reading novels and watching nature documentaries.

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