Things They Don’t Teach In School

 I remember shivering in a snowstorm as I straddled the back of a goat, thinking that there were a whole lot of things that schools don’t teach that I really needed to know. What is hoof rot?  How do you give a penicillin shot to a goat?  How do you trim an alpaca’s toenails?  How do you pull a calf? (okay, I figured this one out – that’s me up to my shoulder in the back-side of a cow) What do animals have to do with rheumatoid arthritis?

Another area that school never taught me about was doctors.  When should one call the doctor?  When should one just wait for something to get better on its own?

If you have pets, talk to a vet.  For your own healthcare, I found a couple really good books that I recommend:

How Doctor’s Think
Ever wondered why doctors ask the questions they do? You tell them one symptom, and they start asking about all sorts of other things! I found this book at bn.com while searching for RA info. The book’s introduction was posted online, and I was hooked! The same doctor has other books: Anatomy of Hope is written with cancer patients in mind, but I found that the overall concept of hope in the face of illness applies to RA, too.

You: The Smart Patient
This is easy to read, with lots of suggestions on things you can do. The first thing you’re supposed to do is write down your family medical history, so I wrote to all my aunts, uncles, and cousins.  It was kinda fun reconnecting with people I hadn’t talked to in years. On my mom’s side of the family, there are 13 boy-cousins, and four girls. Three of us four girls have autoimmune diseases, but had not shared that info with the rest of the family. But I digress. This is a great book, and I feel much more in control of what’s going on with my health. Given the unpredictability of RA, that’s a good thing!  NOTE: The authors of this book work for the Joint Commission, which not all doctors are enamoured with – take some of their recommendations with a grain of salt.

Arthritis Foundation’s Guide to Good Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis 
My public library has an earlier edition of this book. If you have RA, purchase the most recent copy, as it has the most up-to-date research information. Basic disease info is good, coping strategies, medication, etc. I refer frequently to the chapter on stretches and exercises that help with RA.

Rheumatoid Arthritis: The First Year
Quite a bit of overlap with AF’s book, but from a different perspective. There is some unique information, too.  I don’t refer to this one as often as I refer to AF’s book, but it’s well worth reading.

I’ve also enjoyed a number of books by doctors about doctoring. Somehow knowing a little about the types of experiences that doctors have is helpful when I have to explain my own symptoms. I might think that my symptoms are odd, but the doctor has probably heard it a number of times before.  I can just tell my symptoms, now matter how bizarre or embarrassing, and let the doctor figure out the cause and whether or not it needs to be treated.

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