What Is A Rheumatoid Arthritis Flare?

RA Guy Adventures of RA Guy

This is a rheumatoid arthritis flare:

January 16, 2011

I woke up crying today.

It used to be that I could alleviate some of the pain by staying still…but today, the exact opposite seems to hold true.

It hurts to sit down. It hurts to stand up. It hurts to lay down.  Pressing my forearms down on a tabletop, placing all of my weight on my right leg, and dangling my left leg does seem to provide a little bit of relief. (What this position could be called, I have no clue!)

Earlier today, I wasn’t even able to walk the few meters from my bedroom to my bathroom. I had to resort to peeing in a jar.

A few hours later, I eventually did make it to the bathroom, and into nice, hot bathtub…but I struggled to get back out. I was not able to towel dry myself, so I had to ask for help. Part of me still tried to get dressed on my own, but I quickly realized how futile the situation was. My husband asked if I needed help, and I accepted without skipping a beat.

I wish there was something that could magically take away all this pain. (I even found myself thinking that I would forever give up my ability to move and walk, if it meant a final end to all the pain.)  But I’m not going to sell myself short. I’m not going to wait around wishing for what “might” happen. I’m going to continue to figure out what works. I’ve already found a little rhythm that seems to be helping at the moment. Stand for a minute or two. Walk for a minute or two. Sit down for a minute or two. Lean against desk for a minute or two.

I’m going to accept my current limitations. I’m going to accept the presence of all of this pain. I’m going to do what I need to do in order to get through this.

But I’m not going to lose hope.

Originally published as: Hope Is A One Way Street

January 17, 2011

I went to see my rheumatologist earlier this evening. Some of the good things about where I live is that not only am I guaranteed a same-day appointment whenever I call, but my doctors also give me both their cell phone number and their home phone number. (Amazing, isn’t it?)

As soon as I reached the door of my rheumatologist’s office, my left leg completely froze up, forcing me to stand still for a couple of minutes. (It’s been doing that about once every ten minutes for the past two days.) A pharmaceutical rep, who was stuck in the corridor behind me, asked if my leg had fallen asleep…as if! By the time I finally took a seat in front of my doctor’s desk, my rheumatologist already knew that things were seriously wrong.

His examination confirmed what my physical therapist has suggested a few days ago, which was they my entire left leg was being completely stretched apart from the hip all the way down to the toes. On top of that, this was not a typical instance of sciatica. The sciatic nerve itself was a victim of circumstances, as the surrounding muscles and tendons pressed down against this principal nerve, causing it (and me!) to scream out in pain. The tap of the rubber hammer against my right knee resulted in the healthy, reactionary bounce. The tap of the rubber hammer against my left kneed resulted in absolutely no movement. Fade to complete stillness. Cue chirping crickets.

On top of this were my “usual” symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, such as pain, swelling, and numbness in my extremities (both hands and both feet), my elbows, and my shoulders. It’s funny how seemingly minor they became, when compared to the above situation.

I received my first cortisone injection. I supposed to get another one tomorrow. I am starting a 28-day Prednisone taper, my longest one to date. He also offered to insert a needle into my knee in order to extract excess fluid, but left the final decision up to me. Even though I do try to be a superhero most of the time, I must admit that I did chicken out, and passed on this offer. (At this moment, I just don’t feel like I have the strength or the energy to undergo such a procedure.)

As I left his office, I was told that I should start feeling some relief as soon as tomorrow. I sure hope that this prediction comes true!

On my way home, I stopped by the grocery store and bought an assorted mix of junk food. Sure, I’m going to watch my calorie food intake as I once again get back on Prednisone…but all of that starts tomorrow. Today, I’ll allow myself a moment to celebrate returning to the path to recovery.

Originally published as: Rheumatologist Visit

January 18, 2011

Today has been an even rougher day than my past few days, if you can imagine that.

My left leg is seizing up every third step, and I’m unable to place it in anything resembling a normal position. I can barely get around, and when I do I’m completely out of breath. I’ve developed a severe case of acute gastritis (thanks a lot, shots and pills) which is making my stomach feel like it’s on fire. Oh, and did I mention I’ve got a bad case of the runs? (Talk about the absolute last thing that I need to be moving quickly at this moment!)

This combination on all these new symptoms, on top of everything I’ve previously been dealing with, seems almost comical…but I’m not laughing. If my house was even the least bit wheelchair-accessible, I would have already opted for this form of transportation without so much as a second thought.

But as my body continues on its downward slide, I continue to focus on what I do have working in my favor.

First, my rheumatologist and I have already implemented the additional treatment plan that I described in yesterday’s post. Even though I did not see any improvement today, I do know that it will eventually come. Maybe tomorrow will be the day that shows a slight uptick, if not I’ll just keep on moving forward day by day.

Second, I am allowing myself to feel the supportive safety net of friends and family who surround me. I know they are there to help me, and I am reaching out for all the help — physical and emotional — that I need at this moment.

Third, I continue to encounter this flare, probably my worst to date, with a clear mind. This counts for a lot. I am allowing myself to feel different emotions, and am dealing with all of the problems with an increasing sense of tiredness, but so far I have been able to stave off any episodes of serious depression. I think this has helped tremendously. And even though it’s always tries to creep back in, I continue to remove fear from the equation. This helps a lot, too.

I am quite vulnerable at the moment, I know this…but I continue to do my best. (Placing modesty aside I think I’m doing a heck of a job managing this flare, all things considered!) I’m on the path to recovery. I may not be able to see the signs right now, but I know that they are just around the corner. And if this improvement actually comes later rather than sooner, I pray for the continued strength to get through each new day.

I know I can.

I know I will.

Originally published as: Just Around The Corner

January 19, 2011

Yes, I’ve finally got some good news to share!

As of a few hours ago, I finally started to experience a little bit of relief from my current flare. While I am not anywhere close to being out of the woods, this is the first time over the past few days that I can say that things are indeed better, and not worse.

While the most excruciating upper layer of pain begins to fade away, I am left with the lower layer of pain that had not registered up until now. The damage after the storm; the dull soreness of the tense muscles, overstretched tendons, and damaged joints. I welcome this type of pain, actually, because (hopefully) it’s an indicator that the worst is over.

My left leg is once again semi-functional, although my knee continues to take quite a beating…it’s never been this red or swollen before, and I continue to ice it on a regular basis. My feet and hands continue to hurt, but at least they no longer feel like they’re filled with broken glass.

I’m more tired than ever, as I have not gotten a full night’s sleep in almost a week. I have found a position, however, that allows me to lie down with a minimal amount of pain…and while it’s not the most comfortable option available (I’m face-down, with pillows below my waist) it is a major improvement from where I’ve been.

I’m not going to push myself; I’m going to allow my body to recover at it’s own pace. I will be here to support it, though, every step of the way.

And for everyone who has supported me every step of the way during this past week and this past month, I will be forever grateful. Thank you.

Originally published as: Spoiler Alert!

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