Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Brace Yourself for the Unexpected

I’m noticing that more and more illnesses are coming with an adjacent diagnosis.  If it’s one thing we don’t want is two illnesses for the price of one.  Why do certain illnesses have co-diseases that are likely to show up?  Do we have the stamina to fight more than one battle at a time?  If we get one of the illnesses under control are we more likely to have the second illness recede?

The dual diagnosis of illness is not a given.  In most cases it is a small subset of people that actually get the secondary illness.  I’ve had an autoimmune disease for over thirty years.  Unfortunately, I’m one of a mere 5% that have arthritis secondary to my primary diagnosis.  What if I had those odds for winning the lottery?  I’d love to be one of the 5% who get a lump sum pay out.

Sometimes illness is like lining up a set of dominoes.  The first one gets knocked down and then the rest start falling in sequence.  This is one reason that creating a good medical team is important.  If your illnesses fall in two specialties, like mine, make sure that you create an open line of communication between the specialists.  They should each know what the other is recommending, administering, prescribing so they don’t work against each other.

It can be discouraging to have the secondary illness show up.  It’s hard to pinpoint the timing, for me I had one set of symptoms for years before the secondary diagnosis revealed itself.  The last thing we want in the world is to be a mystery to our doctors.  Make sure you get to tell your entire story before the doctor is allowed to make suggestions.  Everything is relevant when making the diagnosis, the onset, how long, when, where, could it have been in a milder form that you didn’t notice until it flared?  You’ll be surprised, as was I, that the symptoms for the secondary illness began long before I was incapacitated, I just wasn’t conscious to the signs.

I hope if you’re diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness that you only have to battle one.  I never would have thought to ask my doctor about secondary illness, it wasn’t part of my consciousness.  I just finished a book about a physician with Parkinson’s Disease and he was then diagnosed with Lewy Body Disease which is a form of dementia.  At the time of your diagnosis ask your doctor about possible secondary diagnosis that are often linked to your primary diagnosis.  Don’t be surprised, but don’t be paranoid about it either.  Know the signs so that if changes start to occur you can get treatment early and hopefully arrest the progression.

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