…Arthritis

…specifically, rheumatoid arthritis. I realize I’m going out on a limb here–wow, hating a degenerative illness. But, yep, I do…

Eighteen months ago, school had just started and I was looking forward to getting control of my time, possibly starting to work freelance (more). But, by the start of week two of the school year, I found myself coming home from the morning walk too exhausted to see straight. I hatehatehate to take naps (I find that they always just make me feel worse) so I try to avoid them at all costs.  But this day, when I realized that it wasn’t just creative exaggeration–I really couldn’t keep my eyes open–I headed to bed, setting the alarm for an hour.

I would rouse enough with the sound of the alarm to hit the “sleep” button, extending the alarm for ten minutes. Sometime after 1pm, I actually managed to reset the alarm for 3pm, and went back to sleep. At 3:20, after hitting “sleep” for the second time, I heard the Guy heading out the front door, clearly on his way to get the kids from school.  At least I assumed so–I was too tired to get up, to even find out. I comforted myself with the thought that, if he wasn’t, eventually the kids would get bored waiting for me and would head home on their own.

I spent the week like that…I would get up, make dinner, stumble around after cleaning up the kitchen, try to stay conscious long enough to see the kids off to bed, then head to my own. I was exhausted, my brain was on slow and felt like it was two inches to the left of my body; I felt like someone had taken a baseball bat to me in the night.

By the end of the week I was able to make that afternoon walk to the school–by leaving at 3:00 to allow myself enough time to shuffle slowly there. I greeted one of the other playground moms with a casual, “hey, stranger!” and she assumed that I was referring to the fact that she had been away sick all week. We compared symptoms and they’d been the same. Except for the fact that neither of us had had a high temp, we were assuming that it was flu and were both surprised that it was having such an early start.

A week later, I ‘fessed up to the same friend that not only did I still feel battered, but my joints felt as if they were swollen and hot.  “On fire” was the expression I used. She looked at me in shock and said, “You have to get to a doctor.” I tried reassuring her that it was clearly post-flu recovery (which can take up to six weeks) but I knew that the fire in my joints was not a normal symptom.

Which is why when I headed off to the doctor the next week, in mid-October, I was not surprised by her instant diagnosis.  “You must have rheumatoid arthritis!” I’d gone the google-route, typed in “hot, swollen joints” and “flu” and page after page after page of hits all answered, “rheumatoid arthritis”. Every list I read of symptoms was a complete description of what I was going through. I even found articles about flu-like illnesses being a trigger for some cases.  So, I was completely prepared.

I was even somewhat relieved. I don’t like the unknown, I don’t like things hanging over my head, worrying about them, waiting, waiting, waiting–I always prefer the answer even if it’s a Big Bad. Answers give you information, knowledge, a place to go, a place to start to look for solutions–the unknown gives you nothing but fear and grief (yes, I have issues!).

My doctor suggested that there was a chance that it was just reactive arthritis (rheumatoid arthritis-like symptoms triggered by the body trying to fight an inflammatory illness and going slightly overboard) and that it could be temporary–up to six months. She prescribed 1800 mg of ibuprofen a day, and asked me to come back in a week.

A week later, I returned announcing that I’d had to start taking acetimenophen in order to counter all the headaches I’d been getting while taking the ibuprofen. Yes, that sounds strange and counter-intutitive, but that’s what happened and I didn’t really like it. The ibuprofen had helped a bit, but not enough to be really interesting. The doctor said that all my bloodwork had come back negative for all the various tests she’d asked for (to make sure it wasn’t lupus, certain inflammatory illnesses, etc) and prescribed meloxicam, an anti-inflammatory generally one of the first things prescribed for RA.

Luckily for me, my doctor’s clinic had just recently paired up with a rheumatologist fresh out of med school. I had a choice of their well-established rheumatologist and a wait of three to six months, or the newbie. I easily chose the newbie, and found myself in her office within a week.  Luck was, for once, on my side.

The rheumatologist reiterated my doctor’s diagnosis. If I was fine the next time she saw me, beginning of February, then it was reactive arthritis–if I was still sick, then it was rheumatoid arthritis.  Off I went to wait and live my life.

The meloxicam was great. I wasn’t 100% better on it–but the small amount of improvement helped enormously. I no longer felt like I’d fallen down a flight of stairs. I no longer was consumed by tremors or shaking (by the time I’d seen the rheumatologist, I’d developed a symptom where I felt like one does when one is shivering from extreme cold. My muscles were aching and sore from that and it left me trembling and feeling weak from head to toe). The pain in all my joints was still there, but I actually felt like I could use them somewhat. I still had tremendous headaches, but realized that was because the pain in my shoulders and neck was making me tense up constantly.

February, I returned to the rheumatologist and had a quick awkward greeting with her. “How are you?” she asked, and I politely if flippantly responded, “Peachy.” I thought my sardonic tone was obvious, but she looked up in quick shock and said, “Really! You’re better? That’s great!”

Oh…not a greeting then, but an immediate launch into my appointment. Ah…so I clarified my situation, and she said, subdued, “Oh. Okay–you have rheumatoid arthritis. Darn–I was really hoping it was just going to be temporary.” I walked out with a prescription for methotrexate.

The methotrexate, commonly used for chemo, was amazing. Although, it too did not take me back to a sense of being completely normal and healthy, my body’s response to it was still fairly immediate. The burning feeling in my joints ameliorated, the pain in my neck finally stopped, stopping the headaches. I even began to feel as if I could use my hands again.

And so began my treatment. I’ve run out of enthusiasm–and time–for this entry, so I’m going for a fast windup here! But, I will probably continue my venting at a later time…given that my RA won’t be going away any time in my future.

Advertisements

Christmas

And so the articles have begun…”The Top Ten Presents NOT To Give”, “How to be Nice not Naughty When GiftGiving”. “Presents Your Children Will Really Love”.

I don’t think I even need to type more than that…

Oh! Except there’s a variant–I hate, hate, HATE those articles that try to pretend that they’re acknowledging the greed of Christmas gifts and explain how the author “teaches” their children the “message” of Christmas…if I read one more stupid piece of advice by some well-intentioned mother (who has never heard that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions…most wrapped in Christmas paper”), Arghh!  The advice is along the lines of “the weeks before Christmas, I explain to the children that they need to go through their toys and pick out ones to give away to less fortunate children. That way, when they get new toys on Christmas they will appreciate them more.” It’s always some variation of “make the kids give away old toys in order to get new toys”.

Here’s my thought–if your kids are giving away anything other than toys that are not age-appropriate, or broken…your kids must have too many damned toys and maybe they just don’t need any this year.  You don’t HAVE to give kids piles of stuff every year.  It always makes me think of the horrible Harry Potter cousin and his birthday presents (every year there had to be one more present than the year before).

Drivers

Any driver who honks at me when I’m driving the van with the signs on it reading: School Vehicle.  Today, I was waiting to turn left at a particularly irksome intersection (a couple of streets south of the QEW, two high schools at the corners, two other schools a block away in either direction, so lots of tense parents in cars, and lots of teenagers constantly stepping out into the street regardless of lights or self-preservation).  On the other side–a panel van and a pickup truck waiting to turn left.  Couldn’t see a damned thing.  Poked my nose out once–three school buses coming at me.  I decided I’d rather be cautious than risk the lives of the two children I was driving.

Woman in the giant-ass SUV behind me honked hell out of her horn at me.  I jumped–and idiotically nosed out a bit more, saw cars…not a clue how fast they were coming, and still couldn’t see one lane of traffic for the view being thoroughly blocked in front of me.  Eventually, turned safely on the yellow.

I figured that once the driver behind me saw the sign on the back of the van (SCHOOL VEHICLE), and on the side that she would see as I turned, that she would be thoroughly chagrined.  Yep–bet that’s why she followed me through the intersection (red light at that point) and tailgated me ALL THE WAY TO THE SCHOOL!  In her giant-ass SUV.

At the school, I pulled up to let the kids out where I usually do…so this woman pulled her giant-ass SUV up beside me, stopped briefly so she could stare me down.  What the–?!

Parks her giant-ass SUV, gets out, goes to the front to glare some more.  So, I lost my sense of humour, and when the kids were delivered to their teacher, I pulled the van over in the parking lot, down from this woman’s giant-ass SUV.  I walked to the back of the van and ostentatiously looked at the sign and announced to her, “The sign is still there–I assumed it must have fallen off and that’s why you thought it was okay to honk at me.”  She actually started yelling at me that I should lose my license because–I had so much time to turn and I didn’t take it!!  I pointed out that she was sitting in a vehicle significantly higher than mine and didn’t have my POV–and she actually screamed at me, “How dare you stop your van!  How dare you stop in the parking lot! How dare you talk to me!”

Never wanted to kick someone in the knees so badly.  Or her tires…but that would have hurt me more than her.

Here’s a clue–I don’t give a damn how angry it makes you, you realize the person in front of you is a school vehicle driving school children in a school zone, take your hand off your horn, your foot off the gas pedal, and calm the hell down.  Don’t endanger your children and my passengers with your tail-gating, road-ragey temper.

…the Christmas season

is that everyone keeps rushing it every year.  Today, driving in the van, putting on the stupid “easy-listening” station that is nice and safe and respectable for the school children to listen to as I drive them to their homes (I’m a driver for special needs kids), the dj loudly proclaimed that now it’s “Toronto’s Christmas Music Station”.  I laughed.  I thought he meant…in like a week or so.  At least not until December 1.  And, at least only one or two songs.  I didn’t know he meant every bloody song would be a Christmas song.

Another month of this?  I have to get a stack of cds to take into the van with me to keep me safe and sane.