If you have read my profile (or even the small bio at the bottom of any of my posts) you know that I recently moved from Southern California to Colorado. I wanted a fresh start, a clean slate, a new life; unfortunately that also meant finding a new health care team. For anyone with a chronic illness like Multiple Sclerosis (or anything else that requires medical attention/treatment) this can be stressful and even scary!
After I was diagnosed with MS, it took me years to find a neurologist I was happy with; I have seen a countless number of neurologists, PCPs (primary care physicians), nurses, optometrists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, doctors of alternative medicine, and so many other health care professionals before I was able to establish the awesome health care team that I had. I knew that I wanted to move; I hated SoCal for so many reasons (it’s not anything like what they make it out to be in the movies). I wanted to establish a life elsewhere but the one thing that scared me above all else was the fact that I would have to leave the health care team that I had grown comfortable with, that I trusted, and that I had built individual relationships with and find a new team. I had developed a sort of equilibrium, I was stable, and I felt “safe” so the thought of moving and disturbing that equilibrium was a bit scary. But, I have learned something over the past 4 years; seldom is there ever a benefit without a risk. If I wanted the benefits of moving to a new state, I had to accept the risks that followed.
I chose Colorado because I was sick of the dry, hot, and season-less weather that kept me trapped inside thanks to my extreme sensitivity to heat. I also had a friend that had moved to the state a little over a year prior and some family who I am currently staying with while I get back up on my feet. On top of that, the economy in California was garbage (generously speaking), which made finding jobs nearly impossible even for people that were way more qualified than I was and who didn’t have health issues. Where I currently reside in Colorado has one of the fastest growing economies in the nation and Colorado as a whole has a pretty high incidence of Multiple Sclerosis; SO, I figured my chances of finding a job seemed much better in CO than CA. All that summed up into one word? OPPORTUNITY.
So I made the leap, I decided the potential benefits were worth the risks. When I met my first neurologist here in Colorado she seemed nice but… she was hardly an “MS Specialist” in that, she did nothing special for MS that any other neurologist couldn’t do besides limit the patients she sees to only those who have MS. A patient should not know more than their doctor does about that doctor’s specialty. For example, a patient should not have to explain to their doctor that Alemtuzumab is just the generic name for “Campath”, a medication currently used to treat Leukemia that is in the process of being FDA approved for treating MS under the name Lemtrada. Yes, that was a real conversation we had and she refused to admit that I was right, so I just gave up and moved on (something that would never have happened with my previous neurologist). Then, when I noticed no clinical research posters in her office, no neurology reading material, no abstracts, no CNS diagrams, nothing, nothing but a stapled stack of papers labeled “MS Cheat Sheet” hanging from the wall, I knew this was strike one. Then when she and her superior wanted to change the cocktail of medication I have been on with much success I had to stand up for myself and list the reasons why staying on would be a good thing and getting off would do me harm. So I got what I wanted (mostly) but I will still be searching for a new neurologist. I also need a PCP, optometrist, and maybe a physical therapist to complete my health care team.
So I knew this was a potential risk and now I will spend who knows how long building a new health care team that I can trust. But so far? It has been worth it! I feel like I have been off to a slow start building a new life and it has been somewhat warm (given that it is summer), but the weather has more than one setting here. It rains, it pours, there is lightning, it gets windy, I am about an hour away from snow (yes, snow, in July) and all this in the middle of summer where I am used to an average of 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 C). Maybe that is normal or even a nuisance to you but for me this is what I wanted, this is what I love, and this is what makes me feel healthy!
So is there a secret to finding a new doctor upon moving? Well, in my experience? Not really… I do as much networking among online support groups as I can (since word of mouth is the best form of advertisement) and I do a lot of reading on Google. Not only is Google a great tool (when properly used) to locate doctors but it’s a good way to do a sort of “background check” to see what schools doctors went to, how long they have been in practice, what certifications they have, and if they have published any papers on MS. There are also many websites that allow you to find patient ratings of doctors! This all may help point you in the right direction of a dedicated doctor who patients like, but really? The one thing most people I have talked to can agree on is that it’s mostly a matter of trial and error until you find what your looking for no matter where you are.