So, as promised, the long and boring post.
Long about this time last year I started in with really achy knees. Not just your everyday achy knees, but knees that sometimes made it really hard to walk. And then there were the feet that decided to follow suit. It got to the point where if I wanted to go up or down stairs I dreaded it, and I took them in a step-together-step fashion that reminded people of someone twice my age.
In other words, I floated like a fairy on the breeze. A fairy in cement clodhoppers.
Then I had one of the asthma attacks I am prone to and got oodles of steroids shot in my behind. And POOF! All the pain in my knees and feet went away!
Only I didn't connect the two.
Over the next few months I started having what I called "episodes" where I felt like every joint in my body hurt and I had no energy AT ALL. I would come home from work and go to bed, then get up and wish I was in bed all day until I got there again. After a few days of this I'd go to the doctor or to Urgent Care, they'd give me a shot of steroids, and everything would be fine.
Only the episodes got closer and closer together until there was rarely a time when I wasn't feeling bad.
My neck hurt. My shoulders hurt. My elbows, wrists, knuckles and joints in my fingers hurt. My back hurt. My hips hurt. My knees, ankles, feet and even toes hurt.
So my doctor ran a couple of blood tests. One of them was for something called rheumatoid factor. In a normal human being-type person it may not show up at all, or it would measure less than 23, so I'm told.
Mine was 384. The test they did to show how much inflammation was inside me was just a little high as well. High enough for Herr Doktor to send me to a specialist.
So I went to see a rheumatologist, who diagnosed me with inflammatory rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that attacks a person's joints. It wears them away bit by bit if not kept under control. It can also suck the energy out of every cell in your body. It is often mistaken for osteoarthritis, but it's a whole lot different. It's debilitating.
My course of treatment right now is to give myself weekly shots of a drug called methotrexate. We haven't been able to get the dosage just right just yet, so the flares (what I called episodes) still happen pretty frequently. They usually come up right before I'm supposed to get a shot, if I've overdone it, or if I'm under a lot of stress. In the meantime, I'm seeing the rheumatologist every month until we get it right. And along with the methotrexate are monthly blood tests to be sure my liver is able to handle the drug.
The bad thing about this is that I can feel just fine one day and be limping around like a lame horse the next. One day I could walk a mile, and the next I would literally wish I had a handicapped tag for my car because it's that hard to walk. But because there are no outward physical signs, people either think you're faking ("You walked up a flight of stairs yesterday!") or you're a mental case.
The good news is that I will be able to get a handicapped tag for the days I need it. The bad news is there are days when I need it.
Yesterday, for instance.
My knees and feet decided not to work the way knees and feet are supposed to. My left knee has taken to trying to bend backward at awkward times. My hips decided to freeze in place, and my hands turned to lobster claws. I spent last night with a bottle of my new-found friend, Darvocet, and the only heating pad I could find, asleep in the chair.
The rheumatologist and I have only been at this for five months or so, and during that time we've found two drugs I'm either allergic to or can't tolerate. We have a long way to go yet, but I'm confident we'll be able to find something that will keep the flares away for longer periods.
And if not?
He's PRESCRIBED massage for me!!!
(For more information on Rheumatoid Arthritis, please check out http://community.arthritis.org/community/raconnect.htm)