Tuesday, January 26, 2010

1 Month with RA

It's time, my friends.

For the past month, I've been avoiding a blogging subject, partially because I was adjusting and partially because I didn't have the words. Now, I do. In December, on the Tuesday before Christmas, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. While I won't get into specifics, the gist of all of it is that my overly helpful immune system has decided to attack my joints, which has been affecting the strength and movement I have in my hands and wrists. For awhile, I wasn't sleeping very well and I was waking up even grouchier than usual with what Kevin has termed my "grandma hands." Luckily, I have good insurance, a great doctor, and have started a dose of very mild immunosuppresants to tell my nosy system to back off.

At first, during all of the testing, I was pretty down. I was worried that I would no longer be able to run or play floor hockey, and on a daily basis I was frustrated by how long it took me to turn on the bathroom faucets, my near inability to open water bottles, and the waking up in the middle of the night to throbbing hands. However, after talking to my doctor, I realized that it's up to me what physical activities I can do, and that while I might have good days and bad days, there are very few things I can do that will make my illness better or worse.

The reason I'm blogging today, however, is not to wallow in my chronic illness, nor to discuss it's impact on my marriage (which, so far, has been minimal, aside from some teasing) It's because I realized today, that I've seen some positive changes in the past month. For starters, I'm feeling better. I'm hoping this is because of the meds, and that I won't have to switch to a more hardcore med (the next strongest med would force me to quit drinking because of it's negative effects on the liver, and we all know that I am just not ready to go through life as a teetotaler). More importantly, though, is the fact that I've become more focused. I'm responding to emails faster, taking care of bills sooner, eating better, and working out longer. I'm not procrastinating my grad school mountains of homework, and I'm trying to be overall more responsible. I spent so much of my time ignoring how much pain I was in, and forcing myself to tough it out. Now, I kick myself. I know my body well enough to know it was telling me something was amiss, and I can't help regretting how much time I wasted feeling less than my best.

I've learned a powerful lesson with all of this. Ignoring something won't make it go away. When I was feeling at my worst with RA (and I feel blessed, because I was diagnosed early in the progression of the disease, and have no permanent damage thus far-my form is much more mild than many of the others in the RA community) I would worry that I had bone cancer, or would be disabled from the mystery condition. In making the appointment and accepting the diagnosis, there has come a sense of peace. Yes, this sucks, but I can handle it. Yes, I will have bad days but I will also have great ones. Yes, I can live my life in a way that makes me happy, I just have to be more in tune and proactive about not letting myself get stressed and overwhelmed. I also have to be a strong, confident and happy wife, because I refuse to let this impact my relationships or experiences with the people I love, especially my husband.

In short, I'm more willing to chase down my goals. In May, I'm running the Wisconsin Half-Marathon, I'm working on my book challenges and my master's, and I'm pondering a possible trip down to South America to see my amazing sister who will be studying in Chile from February-July. Kevin and I are pondering the eternal question: To buy or to rent? and I'm lounging on the couch with my cats when I don't feel like doing any of those things. I'm not sure where my RA will take me tomorrow, let alone in the next few years, so I'm living the way all those "wellness experts" (what are those, anyway?) say you should: in the moment and with no regrets.

For more information about the medical side of Rheumatoid Arthritis, click here.

For a fabulous blog about life with RA click here.

To learn more about a community of support for people with RA and their families, click here.

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