I have not had a flare-up in either one of my hands for almost a week now.
There was period there when my hands were flaring up multiple times a day. There was no pattern to this disease activity (as least not that I could determine), and the onset of the inflammation in my hands and the tightening of the muscles in my forearms seemingly went from 0 to 10 in just a matter of seconds. One second, everything was fine…and just a few seconds later, my hands looked like pinball machine flippers. Others would try to gently stretch my hands back into shape, but the moment that any resistance was removed, my hands would…well, just flip back in place.
During this time of frequent flares in my hands, I became clumsier than ever. Funny thing though, is that when something would fall, I wouldn’t even get frustrated. I sort of expected the increase in accidents when I tried to use my hands (except, of course, when I actually cut part of my finger while chopping an onion). Sometimes, I would even preempt an accident that seemed all but unavoidable, and would ask someone else for help.
If the limp in my left leg and my many other ailments were not already making my rheumatoid arthritis obvious to those around me, the flare-ups in my hands just managed to shine the spotlight on my illness. I’m at the gym, lifting weights (using the smallest dumbbells, mind you) when my hands flare up. I’m sitting at my desk tutoring a student when my hands flare up (I do tell them casually, when this starts, that my hands will be out of commission for a while, but not to worry…oh, and could you please turn the page?)
But just as quickly as my hand flares appeared, they disappeared. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because of the new wool gloves that I bought (I’m in winter right now). Maybe it’s because my hands (and my ankles) actually feel just a tad bit stronger after swimming 4x a week for a month now. Maybe it’s because, after years of being reminded by my rheumatologist, I am actually (gasp!) doing all of the recommended hand-strengthening exercises.
This past weekend, I got back into the kitchen…something that I am very wary to do when my hands are acting up. And while I did ask for help in peeling the potatoes and lifting anything that weighed more than a few pounds, I did do all of the chopping and mixing myself. The results were better than I could have imagined: wine-braised chuck tender roast, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, and yucca rosti with caramelized onions.
That same night, I also (finally) attended the white night activities in the city in which I live. This all-night arts festival is held in hundreds of cities around the world, usually in summertime. The organizers of this local event scheduled it to take place in what is normally summer in the northern hemisphere, but on what happens to be a very cold winter day here at 12,000 feet above sea level. During the past few years I had always planned on attending, but always cancelled the day of because it was too cold. This year, I piled on the layers while still managing to zip closed (two pairs of gloves were on my hands!) my huge down jacket, and went off into from museum to musical event to dance performance. It was a very nice finish to my day spent cooking in the kitchen.
The soles of my feet are starting to act up, as are both shoulders. My hands are much better than they’ve been for a while. I appreciate them so much more after all that they have been through during this past month. They continue to remain strong, and are once again supporting me (and making walking with a cane or crutches a little more easy).
I am happy, but I am also ready to adjust accordingly, should they once again come under attack from my rheumatoid arthritis.
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!