Those of you who have been reading my blog for quite awhile know that I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in August of 2013. If you are unfamiliar with it and are curious about it, you can read more about it here. Here's an extremely abbreviate version of what it is:
"Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a systemic autoimmune disease which attacks primarily, but not solely, the joints. It is an incurable disease affecting the synovial tissues which surround joints and similar lining tissues of certain organs. Through a very complex process, various kinds of immune cells attack and eventually destroy otherwise healthy tissues."
When I got diagnosed with it in 2013, I started a pretty aggressive treatment plan that put my disease into remission and for the most part, I've been asymptomatic for the last 2 years. Most days I forget that I even have RA. Well, besides when I take my bevy of drugs each week.
Well last Thursday, I was reminded that I do, in fact, have a shitty chronic illness, when I experienced my first RA flare since my diagnosis. When I went to bed on Wednesday night I had some pain in my middle finger but was thinking/hoping it would go away overnight. Boy was I wrong. I woke up on Thursday to a very swollen hand.
Due to the swelling in the joints of my right hand, I could not fully extend my fingers or made a fist and the pain was so bad that I ended up crying quite a bit that morning. I could not do the simplest tasks, like grasping the handle of the fridge to open it, holding a spoon, fork or glass to eat and drink, or open my make-up compact. My left hand was fine but doing everything one-handed is challenging - especially eating and applying make-up as I am FAR from being ambidextrous.
My Rheumatologist was not in the clinic that day but luckily I was able to get an appointment with his partner and he did an ultrasound which confirmed that it was definitely an RA flare as he could see the fluid around my joints, indicating that they were under attack by my immune system. He also determined that my cold had turned into a sinus infection so in addition to putting me on a steroid to reduce the swelling, he prescribed a strong antibiotic to take care of the sinus infection.
I know there are a lot 'at least' statements that can be made, like "at least this was your first flare in 2 years!" or "at least this didn't happen when you were in Mexico" or "at least the steroids will help" and I certainly said some of these statements in an effort to make it seem like I was handling it ok. But the reality of the situation is that it royally sucked and I once again felt betrayed by my body. I was reminded that you can do ALL the right things (eat healthy, exercise, etc) but sometimes it does not matter. So I let myself mope and cry and feel all the "why me?" feelings. Because in my opinion, you have to let yourself feel all those things so you can release those emotions and move on from the experience.
The steroids have kicked in and the swelling has subsided but what I am left with is a feeling of fear. Fear that this was not a fluke and that I will have more flare-ups in the future. Fear that this might happen again when I am traveling for work or while on vacation or at some other time when I don't have access to my physician. I know that I have to make the choice to not give into those feelings of fear and to trust that my physician will figure something out if more flares continues, but it's hard to choose to walk away from that feeling of fear.
I realize that this is a Debbie Down post and not at all uplifting but I believe in "keeping it real" and showing what real life looks like (when it's your story to share, as it is in this case). Because life is not all sunshine and roses. I know that I am very blessed to have a supportive boyfriend, kind and caring family members, and compassionate friends. But you can be thankful for all of those big things and still be sad over the circumstances of your life. And right now I'm feeling a little sad.
So right now I'm trying to focus on self-care. I'm giving my body lots of rest and am taking more rest days than I've taken since the marathon. And I'm trying to squelch those feelings of guilt over my lack of activity as I know that rest and extra sleep are what my bodies needs right now. And luckily this flare coincided with a mostly plan-free weekend and today's "shouldless" day. I know that with time this bout of sadness about my RA diagnosis will dissipate as I continue to get better but right now I just have to be OK with not always being OK With my diagnosis.