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.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

More Reading Fiber

I've always loved to read. As a kid, I used to not only read voraciously, but I also used to play with my books, building forts so that I could literally protect myself from the outside world and my noisy hoard of siblings to read. As I've gotten older, this initial love has turned itself both into a comforting hobby and a profession. Now, in addition to reading confidently myself, I work every day to inspire the same love in my kiddos at school.

However, I will say that starting grad school (for a master's in reading instruction no less) has gotten me into some very, very bad reading habits. Namely, I've been reading a lot of crap. Very enjoyable, very vacation-y, crap. While I love these young adult-ish books, I also need to get my reading back on track. With less time to read for fun due to all my course reading, I was choosing to read "snack" type books- they fed the urge to read, but didn't really sustain my soul's need to read interesting, meaningful, and think-y books. So, it's time to find books that will balance my reading pyramid a bit.

In an attempt to balance my reading "diet", I'm joining two reading challenges for 2010: the Book Awards Reading Challenge (http://bookawardschallenge.blogspot.com/), in which I will have to read 10 books winning 10 different awards in 2010, and the 2010 Pub Challenge, in which I will need to read a minimum of 10 books first published in the U.S. in 2010. (http://1morechapter.com/pub/?p=57). While this blog is more of a chronicle of being a freshly married, veteran teacher who likes to read, run, and cause mayhem with her husband (also a contributer) than a book blog, I will be posting on my progress in these challenges with brief reviews and thoughts. Thanks to my friend Rebecca at The Book Lady's Blog (thebookladysblog.com) for the inspiration!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Stereotypical New Year's Post

Last night we rang in 2010 with Wii bowling, shocking amounts of champagne, and high-volume storytelling with our friends. We also debated whether we are going to say "two thousand and ten" or "twenty ten" when referring to this year. Let me know which camp you fall into- our group was pretty much split.

As most are doing today, I've been thinking lately about the transition between 2009 and 2010. Last year, I failed miserably in a Twister tournament, found an amazing St. Patrick's Day (Polish Pride) t-shirt, dressed up like a hot dog and passed out condoms, got married, began my adventures in teaching kindergarten, threw some fantastic dinner parties, went skiing, and ended the year with some doctor craziness (more on that later). What I cannot remember for the life of me in all of these moments big and small are my New Year's Resolutions for 2009. So, with the help of my trusty blog, I've decided to set three small goals a month during 2010. I tried this strategy with eating before the wedding, and it worked for me. I'm a procrastinator, and an inattentive person to details, so I figure announcing my goals each month here, and jotting some notes about them might help me keep myself more accountable to.....myself.

So, without much further ado, my 2009 goals:
1) Work out 4 times a week. 3 of these times must be in the gym, one may be 30 minutes of Wii Fit at home.
2) Eat a fruit or vegetable at every meal.
3) Spend 15 minutes a day cleaning the apartment.

I'll report back February 1 to let you know how this went. In the meantime, it's time to sprawl on the couch with my current read (Blonde, by Joyce Carol Oates) and listen to Kev save me from the bad guys by playing hours of Modern Warfare.