Monday, March 25, 2013

One Year, An Overview

It was a year ago that I received the diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Thursday, March 29th, my world view shifted. I had a last glass of alcohol on Friday, March 30th. I started taking methotrexate Saturday, March 31st. It's been a process, with ups and downs. Where am I?

Well, Thursday, March 21st, I had no pain, none, nothing. No joint ached or gave me any pain. I've been dealing with very painful knees and they had nothing to say to me on the 21st.

I didn't realize I was pain free until about 9:30 in the morning when I came back to my desk from the microwave where I'd made hot water for tea. Wait. I'm moving freely and without pain. I had to actually think about it, take a mental survey of my body parts.

  • Thumbs - okay
  • Wrists - okay
  • Shoulders - okay
  • Hips -okay
  • Knees - okay
  • Ankles - okay 

Everything's okay and not hurting. Someone pinch me or something.

This has been my companion for over a year now.

I have used it to get out of bed, out of the recliner, off the floor when I've had to get down there to clean, go up and down the basement stairs or ever the deck stairs, and simply to stand up and get my feet under me to start walking. I have it hanging on the office door, but I have not used it since my flare up at Christmas.

Since early February, I've been going to physical therapy in an effort to strengthen the hip and upper leg muscles which will then help the knee joint. The cartilage in my knee is wearing, but it does that in everyone's knees. Eventually, you won't have any or it will be a thin strip and osteoarthritis sets in. If your other muscles are strong and as healthy as they can be, you'll avoid knee replacement or, if it's necessary, come back from the surgery much faster than someone without such healthy muscles. I try to do my exercises daily and no, I fail, but there are some I can do every day that help the knee. It paid off and was proof of what finding 15 minutes a day can do, last Thursday when I was pain free.

Do I miss alcohol? Sometimes. It seemed, in spring of last year, everywhere I went, there were advertisements for all the good beers that I certainly would try either because the name was interesting or because I knew the brewer wouldn't make something awful. And I couldn't have any of it. Now, I barely notice the bottles or the advertising. I still have bottles of spirits in the basement as I can cook with alcohol. The alcohol burns off in cooking, leaving the flavor. Beyond that, I don't miss it, not at all.

I get around just fine, although the whole point of getting the knees to work without pain was to begin walking for exercise again. I've learned so much about this disease and what are the things I should be doing to manage it. I take my pills. I consult with my doctor. I need to lose weight. One of the problems with RA is that it will increase cholesterol in the blood stream which can lead, as we know, to plaque build up in the arteries. I'm not genetically programmed to have high blood pressure so I would like to keep it that way. But when walking around the house just doing chores makes my knees scream in pain, something had to be done.

I hope, this year, to take real vacations, go places, see people and do things. I have adapted to a more limited mobility but my doctor believes that was just temporary. I have actually enjoyed learning about rheumatoid arthritis and how I can combat it. I should look into RA support groups, too. There is strength in numbers.

So, this new path I find myself on still has the same sunshine, the same cats, the same chores, the same places for gratitude as the old path. Nothing has changed and everything has changed. I find it's not about my physical limitation, it's about what I think I can't do. It's about speaking up when it hurts. It's about working together with my doctor and my body to figure out how best to make me the best I can be. If ever a year for gratitude in the small things, this has been it. The things that get me down are not from my health. And I have learned to be even more grateful for robins and sunshine and pencils and purring cats and clean underwear and frozen dinners and friends.

Perspective. I might finally have that.

Beverage:  Huckleberry tea


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