RA & The Workplace

It’s three o’clock in the morning, and I just got home from a social outing with my new coworkers. The evening was fun…not only am I getting to know the people that I work with a little bit better, but I am also celebrating the fact that my cold of ten days is finally tapering down. (Let’s hear it for immunosuppresants!)

I marveled in my ability to actually dance, even though my knees are once again being slightly affected by my rheumatoid arthritis. The last time I went dancing was a few months ago. To be honest, I felt a little awkward dancing with my crutches that evening a while back…but I did have fun that night, and in the end that is what matters most. While I was not using my crutches this evening, I did have the sense that they *might* once again be coming out of their corner in the vestibule sometime soon.

During the evening I spoke with another professor in my department, and opened up a little bit about the fact that I live with rheumatoid arthritis. I’ve had a relatively good past couple of weeks (despite my cold), but over the past couple of days I’ve noticed that pervasive pain returning to all of the joints in my body. I guess my need to bring up this topic was somewhat preemptive….I’d rather explain the presence of a cane or crutches now, ahead of time, instead of when I am “in the weeds” (as chefs would say).

Even though I had expected the receive a supportive response, I was still surprised with how overwhelmingly supportive the response was. To sum it up in a few words, I was told that if I ever did have a day where I was not able to make it to campus, one of the other professors in the department would happily fill in for me.

And while deep down inside I hope to not reach such a point, I do find a lot of comfort in knowing that if I do have a really bad day, my colleagues are willing to step up and help me.

Speaking about disability in the workplace is always a sensitive topic, and I don’t think that there is a simple answer for how it should or should not be done…but I am learning, firsthand, that in my situation being open about it is only helping me to feel more confident about this recent commitment that I have made.

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

LivingRheum: Value In Stillness

I sat with that thought for a while.  Maybe I needed to stop fighting the stillness and just for a while embrace it.

So I did.

Read More: http://www.livingrheum.com/2010/02/15/rheumatoid-arthritis-value-in-stillness/

A few months ago I too stopped fighting against the moments of physical stillness that were outside of my control, and started using them as moments to look inside of myself. I really appreciate how eloquently this step of acceptance was described in LivingRheum’s post.

Torch Fail

Vancounver LightingRheumatoid Arthritis Guy is in day four of a cold. Day 1: sore throat. Day 2: congested head. Day 3: sneezing. Day 4: coughing. While most of South America is tossing water balloons, wrapping themselves with streamers, and partying late into the night (Carnival celebrations started this past Thursday and last until this coming Tuesday), I find myself in bed nursing this cold.

Last night, I found myself watching the first night’s coverage of the Winter Olympics. All I can say is one word: ouch! All of that white snow and freezing temperatures was so frightening, that I had to cover all of my joints so that they couldn’t see the television screen. (Think: little children at a horror flick.) Then they started showing some preliminary ski jumps. Everytime the skier landed back on the ground, I could not help from feeling a wave of pain pass through my body…just the thought of landing on my feet from that height made me shudder. (Hey, what can I say? Swinging my feet over the side of the bed and dropping them a few inches onto the ground is often painful enough!)

As many of us now know, one arm of the indoor torch/cauldron contraption did not work as expected…leaving the torch bearers to wait and wait as the music played on. Finally, the producers decided to proceed with only three of the four arms. News of this mishap immediately started spreading around the web. Twitter had #torchfail. Articles reported the hydraulic problem. Television commentators started talking about how the “real” cauldron lighting was still to come.

Just when it was most important for everything to function without a hitch, something critical did not want to move into place.

Deep down inside, I chuckled slightly. Living with rheumatoid arthritis, I know this feeling all to well. I have my torch fails on a frequent basis. While they are not broadcast to a worldwide audience, in the end I end up having to do the same that they did in Vancouver last night: accept that it’s not going to work at this moment, and do my best to continue moving forward.

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

Back To School

classroom_1Over the past few days I received quite a few emails from different people, asking me how I was doing (as I had not posted in a few days). I really appreciate this outpouring of concern and support!

In a previous post, I had mentioned that I was going to lower the pace of my blogging due to numerous reasons…so this is part of the reason why readers might not have seen many posts from me last week as they are accustomed to…but there’s more to the story.

To be honest, I am once again in the middle of a flare. My feet/ankles and hands/wrists are taking a beating, and every now and then my RA decides to pay a visit to a knee or an elbow or a shoulder. Early last week, I once again returned to the health clinic for an anti-inflammatory injection. Two days later, when things got worse (I usually get better two days after one of these shots), I returned for another injection. I am currently two days past this last injection, and am hoping that there is indeed a bigger improvement.

I’ve been trying to break away from the habit of labeling certain pain episodes as “the worst ever” (even though they would certainly qualify) because I don’t think it helps me move through these rough times. What I do try to do, though, is try to think about how long it’s been since my RA has been this active. (November.) This little mental activity allows me to more accurately asses my current pain, and also reminds me that I have been through this before and will get through it again.

This flare, however, is not the reason why I did not post much this last week.

A few months ago, at the beginning of September, I committed to taking a foreign language class at one of the local universities. The course met three times a week, and even though it was something I was definitely interested in, I was slightly hesitant at the thought of being able to actually attend something of this nature while living with rheumatoid arthritis that seems to peak on a frequent basis.

In the end, I proved that I was able to do even more than I had expected, despite my pain and disability.

The reason why I did not write much this past week, and why I will not be writing as much in the near future, is that I am once again going back to class in a couple of days. Unlike last semester, where I attended three times a week, this semester I will be attending five times a week. (Gulp!)

There is also one other major difference that I would like to share. This time around, I won’t be sitting in the classroom, taking notes…I will be standing up (as much as my RA allows me to) in front of the classroom, teaching the class!  I will be teaching the Advanced English course at one of the local universities, with the possibility of teaching more design-related classes in the future.

So while my syllabus is complete and the course website is set up, I still have a lot of work to do – much more than I have had during the past year (discounting all the work and effort that was required to bring my rheumatoid arthritis under some semblance of control, of course). Am I (once again?) slightly hesitant with this commitment that I have made? Yes. I also have no doubt, however, that a few months down the road I will once again be able to look back and smile at what I was able to accomplish.

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