Immediately upon returning from our family’s epic road trip, I went to a rheumatologist to discuss the symptoms I’d experienced before our adventure.
Why a rheumatologist?
It was the only doctor I hadn’t seen.
Over the past decade, I’ve talked to neurologists, oncologists and gynecologists about my symptoms. I’ve meditated, taken every type of yoga class and even attended an ayahuasca retreat. (More on that later.)
I’d tried everything. Except seeing a rheumatologist.
Within minutes of stepping into her office, she had an idea as to what might be the root cause of my issues. She said the symptoms sounded like Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease that affects about 4 million people in the U.S.
The condition often accompanies other immune system disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
While we still have to run blood work, I felt a huge surge of relief. I’ve talked to so many doctors about my symptoms, and everyone said, “well, maybe that’s just your normal.”
I haven’t been able to wear contact lenses since my 20s because my eyes were too dry. Maybe that’s just how your eyes are, the doctors said.
My dry mouth? The false positives for STDs during my pregnancies? The detached retina, nerve pain, heart palpitations, anemia and chronic low blood pressure?
The fact that I’ve felt like a little old lady since I was 25?
Maybe that’s just your normal, they said. But it doesn’t feel normal.
Now that I have an idea as to what might be causing my symptoms, things are starting to fall into place. I feel a sense of validation. This isn’t all in my head.
This is real. And maybe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
Now I can start to make plans.
And one of them is to get a root canal.
Wait, a Root Canal?
Before I went to the rheumatologist, my cousin sent me the link for a movie called The Root Cause.
It’s a documentary about a man whose story sounded awfully familiar. All his life, he had dealt with strange health problems. To understand and treat them, he’d tried everything under the sun: EMDR, reflexology, massage, fire walking, chiropractors, cleanses, coffee enemas, medical marijuana, acupuncture, Kambo therapy and crystals.
But he didn’t feel any relief until he had a failed root canal removed. According to the movie, many of the materials used in the procedure can cause toxin buildup in the body. In interviews, people talked about the correlation between root canals and conditions like cancer and heart disease.
I had a root canal when I was 15, just a few years before I started experiencing some of my symptoms. I made an appointment with a holistic dentist right away.
In his office, he said he had removed root canals from patients with chronic conditions. A few weeks later, many said their symptoms started to ease or even disappear.
He encouraged me to do some research and think about it. It is a big decision, after all.
I made an appointment right on the spot.
The Relief of Finding a Possible Path Forward
At this point, the worst case scenario is that I test positive for Sjögren’s (and possibly an accompanying autoimmune disease) and my symptoms persist after my root canal.
Then, I will at least know I have a condition that needs to be managed. Some people with Sjögren’s go on steroids. Others need chemotherapy.
But when it comes to autoimmune diseases, the best way to manage your symptoms is to reduce your stressors.
This prompted a serious conversation with my husband, Carlos. If my symptoms persist, I will have no choice but to make a major career decision. My life is just too stressful as-is.
As someone who is addicted to stress, I know a change of this magnitude won’t be easy. I’ll have to take a hard look at my personality and how I’m built. My mind is drawn to stress. It’s a part of my creativity and problem-solving processes.
But it’s likely also one of the root causes of my biggest health issues.
A Fresh Start to a New Year
As I’m writing this, my jaw is throbbing from where the root canal was removed, and I’m eagerly awaiting my blood test results.
Despite the pain, I feel good. I’m excited for the future.
If my blood work shows signs of Sjögren’s, then at least I’ll have a diagnosis and can start working toward a health management program.
I’ll keep you updated on where things stand. In the meantime, I hope you and yours had a wonderful holiday season. I’m excited to see what 2021 has in store for us all.