Normalizing My Flares

RA Guy Adventures of RA Guy

big flareFor the past month, Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy wondered how he would share the news of the eventual return of his RA symptoms. For a while there, I tried looking into the future, and what I saw were blog headlines, Facebook updates, and Twitter messages declaring: “It’s official: RA Guy is back in a flare”.

The truth of the matter, though, is that I have officially been back in a flare since last Wednesday, and I decided that I would not make it such a fanfare moment.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in the least bit of denial…I accept what is going on and am reacting to things accordingly. I never thought I would say this, but going through this flare seems almost normal. And the best part has been that the things that I enjoy doing the most have gone on almost completely uninterrupted.

In the past, the act of bringing my forearm crutches back out of the closet was always a difficult one. I always felt defeated, as if I had not done enough to take care of myself in order to prevent the need for crutches. I now know that the speed with which all of the tendons in my feet can become severely inflamed is due to the nature of my illness, and is not a sign of how well I do or do not take care of myself.

On Wednesday afternoon my crutches were back in use. Although encountering mobility limitations is never completely easy, this time around it did feel just a tad bit easier. On Thursday morning I went and bought that new pair of forearm crutches that I had been eyeing since a month ago. With their sleek molded design and lightweight material, I now think of them more as a fashion statement and less as a sign of my mobility limitations.

I have no idea how long this flare will last, but compared to previous flares I can say with certainty that the severity of my symptoms has been less, and their duration (at least up to the moment) seem to be shorter. It doesn’t feel like my world has been turned upside-down; instead it’s sort of like I’m returning to a routine that may not be my favorite, but which I know from experience how to do well.

Yesterday afternoon I had my monthly appointment with my rheumatologist. He too noted that my flare did not seem to be as bad as my last handful of flares. He always answers every question that I have, and always asks me if I have any more questions to ask. I always leave his office feeling more confident than when I entered, and for this I am grateful.

My visit with my rheumatologist yesterday lasted 90 minutes. (No joke!) One of my questions was about the safety of long-term and/or higher-dosage corticosteroid use. (He is always very cautious about prescribing me Prednisone, and when he does it is always for controlled periods of time that begin to taper down almost immediately.) Out came multiple textbooks and rheumatology journals, and he gave me a thirty-minute lesson on the ins and outs of corticosteroid treatments for rheumatoid arthritis. I almost felt like I was in med school.

If this doesn’t qualify as empowering a patient, I don’t know what does.

Last evening I went to the annual book fair in the city in which I live. After walking around for about half an hour, my ankles and feet were in pain. I told my companions that I was going to go sit down in the coffee shop and wait for them – to please take their time in going through the rest of the fair. As I waited, I thought back to a few years ago, when I missed out on the book fair completely because I was in too much pain. It was then that I realized the great strides I have made in terms of living with RA. I am sure that my internal smile was visible to those who were around me.

I managed to enter this current flare without too much resistance or fanfare, and I think I’ll plan on exiting it in this same way. In doing so, I think I’ve found a way in which to make my flares just a little bit less disruptive. If they’re going to be a part of my life, I might as well get somewhat used to them.

Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!

Photo Credit: Big Flare! Creative Commons 2.0