Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is that quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.” -Mary Anne Radmacher
Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy has recently been thinking a lot about the concept of remission. Many of us are familiar with the most common definition of remission. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, remission is “a decrease or subsidence (esp. a temporary one) in the violence of a disease or pain.”
If you ask a person living with rheumatoid arthritis (or a rheumatologist) what the goal of any treatment plan is, I think chances are that you would get one of two answers. The first response would be to slow down the progression of the disease and to slow down the damage to the joints. The second response (which I find myself longing for at times) would be remission.
Remission. Hibernation. Going on RA vacation. Taking a break. Call it whatever you want, the notion of having a period where there is no rheumatoid arthritis activity often sits out there on the horizon, sort of like the pot at the end of the rainbow. In my five years of living with rheumatoid arthritis, I did have almost one complete year which I could refer to as being a solid period of remission.
Yesterday, as I sat in the back of the taxi on my way home from my physical therapy session, I realized how incredibly calm I was. This surprised me, because the pain and inflammation in my feet, ankles, and knees was worse than ever. I require so many different treatments on different joints, that both me and the physical therapist have our own routine now. Lift that leg, bend this knee, extend that foot, give me the left hand, show my your right elbow. As with any dance, most of it goes unspoken.
In order to get the most out of my session, we often do up to three different treatments at the same time. After attaching the electrodes on my knees, this treatment can pretty much run attended for 15-30 minutes. During this time, she does ultrasound therapy on my feet. And in order to squeeze in that one last treatment, I do low-laser therapy on my hands. Stop, and rotate everything up to the next set of joints.
As I continued on my ride home, I begin to think – this fluidity doesn’t take place only at the doctor’s office. In my daily life at home, I have become quite used to this rheumatoid arthritis dance.
Wake up in the morning, evaluate body. Decide if going to yoga this morning will help or hurt me. Take my morning pills. Get bathed and get dressed – incorporating any modification necessary to make the routine a little easier. Sit down for a few minutes. Rest my mind. Rest my joints.
Monday? Acupuncture and physical therapy. Tuesday? Yoga and psychologist. Wednesday? Free morning (for lab work, picking up medicines, or anything else that might come up – sometimes even sleeping in, the best treatment of them all!) and physical therapy. Thursday? Yoga and acupuncture. Friday? Yoga and physical therapy.
During the evenings, I have a whole other list of possible activities. Meditate. Write my positive affirmations. Listen to relaxing music. Take my fish oil.
A month into this routine, I felt a little overwhelmed with my “new” life.
Two months in, I now find myself completely at ease. On top of this, I feel very fortunate that I able to dedicate so much time and effort to my health care.
But during the past ten days, my symptoms took a big downhill turn. Shouldn’t I be getting better, not worse? But by now, I know that RA does not always make sense, and that it can be confusing enough to begin with.
So instead of worrying, I add another tool to my chest. Yesterday I started an elimination diet. I hope to both increase my energy levels and determine if something that I am consuming might be aggravating my RA.
And it all seems so normal. Sunday night I received a few messages asking how my weekend went. I sent out the following tweet: “Incredible amount of pain this weekend…but you know what? I’m okay with this. Never thought I would be able to say such a thing.”
As the taxi neared my house, I begin to wonder if there were any other definitions of remission. As soon as I got back into my home office, I pulled out my trusty (compact) OED. Low and behold, the fifth entry showed: “Relaxation, lessening of tension.”
So, I am pleased to announce that, even though my physical pain and inflammation continues to flare, I have indeed reached a point of remission.
Mental remission, that is.
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!