My struggle with autoimmunity: Part 1 (Discovery)

In 2012, life was pretty much perfect. I was 19 years old, and I had just gotten back from a semester abroad in Spain, where I had spent little time studying, and a lot of time travelling, meeting new people, and practicing foreign languages. Little did I know what was in store for me for the next year of my life.

Upon my return to North America, I started to experience a myriad of strange symptoms that would baffle both me and my doctors for many months to come.

I first began to experience eye dryness. It wasn’t that bad at first- just an eye drop here, an eye drop there. But when I would wake up, my eyelids would be glued to my eyeballs, to the point where I would have to peel my lids off of my eyes, which would be red and bloody from the pain. I spoke with my optometrist about the dryness, believing that laser eye surgery from the year before was to blame.

The strange thing was, as time passed, I began to realize that the dryness extended beyond my eyes- I now was experiencing severe dryness in my mouth as well, and blaming my laser eye surgery no longer made sense. In fact, when I made a trip to the dental hygienist later that year, she scolded me profusely, and pronounced that I had eight (!) cavities. Having never had a cavity in my entire life, this came as quite the surprise.

I found out soon afterwards that not only did I have cavities, but I had developed a nasty case of oral thrush as well. This meant that I now had a yeast infection in my mouth! Horrified, I was sent home with a huge bottle of antibiotic mouthwash, a mouth full of fillings, and a significantly reduced bank balance.

At this point, I was already suffering from a lack of sleep, having to wake up multiple times a night to put in eye drops, and to drink gallons of water to ease my dehydration. But my next symptom would be the “tipping point” for me. I began to experience joint pain in my fingers and toes that was so severe, I could’ve sworn that cutting off my little appendages would have been less painful.

After 72 hours straight of no sleep (due to the pain), I dragged my miserable ass to a family doctor to discuss my health issues. I expected to walk right out of the office with a diagnosis, treatment and prescription for a cure. I did not realize it at the time, but I had just embarked on a very, very long journey.

Read Part 2 of my story here.

4 thoughts on “My struggle with autoimmunity: Part 1 (Discovery)

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