Making Sense of My Thumbs: Coming to Terms With Chronic Illness

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This narrative describes a patient's search for diagnosis and treatment of pain in her thumbs from allopathic and complementary health care practitioners. The patient is a family physician who tries to understand why she has the condition. When the allopathic diagnostic process does not satisfy her need for an explanation, the author seeks answers in complementary health care and eventually finds a clinician who interprets her symptoms in a more complex fashion. Through her search for meaning and through writing about the experience, the author recognizes that she has been wrestling with acceptance of aging and having a chronic illness. More than the logical processing of data into a rational conclusion, diagnosis must be incorporated into the patient's experience. The narrative weaves the patient's voice between the clinical notes of the treating practitioners to complement the subjective experience of illness with the objective language of treatment.

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