I’m almost a month away from my extended visit in the United States, and just a week away from wrapping up my time in Texas. I’ve done a *lot* during the past few weeks (much more than I expected), and while my rheumatoid arthritis has in general been treating me well, I still continue to have occasional dips in the road. This past Saturday in fact–the day of the 40th birthday part of one of my best friends (all the way back from my junior high years!), I had my most severe flare yet of this trip. On that day I ended up having to skip the midday picnic at Zilker Park here in Austin, but luckily the flare broke right around 5:00pm, just an hour and a half before the main festivities started.
And while I’ve attributed part of my recent uptick to the warmer weather, I think I’m at the point where the hot weather might actually be causing some issues. Just the night before, as I sat on the patio of a bar on Rainey Street chatting with my friends close to midnight, I couldn’t believe how hot it was!
I also realized just this past week that I’m also going into my fourth month of methotrexate, which might be another reason why I’ve been doing a little better than usual. (I’m still slightly amazed at how well I’ve been able to handle this medicine this second time around; it’s definitely been a night-and-day change, for the better, since the last time I was on MTX, and I attribute this to my rheumatologist’s suggestion to split my weekly dose into three smaller doses during a 24-hour period.)
Medicines or weather aside, however, I am certain that there is an aspect of this visit that is helping me in more ways than I could imagine: this has been being able to spend some quality time with friends and family whom I have not seen in years. From my mom and dad to high school and college friends, godparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, family friends, and my one surviving grandparent, it’s been a pleasure to catch up with all of these great people in my life. (And just like I’m less than halfway through my trip, I’m correspondingly just part way through the list of people who I plan on seeing.)
One thing that has pleasantly surprised me is the number of genuine inquiries about my health that I’ve received over the past month. I know that one of the common complaints from those of us who live with chronic illness is that others often don’t understand what we go through, or that they think we’re living with “just arthritis” (a statement that I do not use myself, as I believe that it undermines the severity of osteoarthritis), but this could not be further from the truth from what I’ve been personally experiencing. More so, I’ve seen a strong willingness from so many others to learn a little more about my disease, and to discuss the challenges that I–and others who live with this and similar diseases– encounter on a daily basis.
I’ve also been surrounded by people who ask me if there is anything they can do do to help, which has made me realize (not that I don’t receive this same help and consideration back home–I do) how nice it is just to be asked that question, even if I don’t need any help at that exact moment.
People may not always have a clear understanding about rheumatoid arthritis…but I really do believe that more often than not, they really do care, and are ready to help. It’s nice to be reminded of this, and it’s made my extended visit much less stressful and much more enjoyable.
In the weeks leading up to this trip, I more than once spoke to my physical therapist about how concerned I was that I would not have access to some of the regular treatments–including physical therapy–that I’ve grown accustomed to while I was here in the states. It’s funny, looking back, because she would immediately tell me that spending time with friends and family was going to do me a lot of good, and that even without my regular sessions of PT, she knew that I was going to be okay. I’m happy to share that she was right…more than I could have ever imagined!
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy