Yesterday was a not so good day. What seemed like an ordinary day went down hill fast. I should have known. The telltale signs were there around 7am. Pain in my hips and knees. A stiff back. Slow moving wrists.
You don’t look like you have arthritis I was told by 10am. A cursory glance at my hands followed.
I keep pretty active I said. Trailing off. Feeling deflated.
That’s the thing. I don’t look unwell. Some days I’m not. Some weeks I’m not.
My day was spent sleeping, or wanting to sleep. Timing hours so I knew when to take more pain killers. Making notes to fill the specialist in next visit.
The good in all this is the kids are older now and get it. When I say I’m having a bad day they know that means they will be the ones doing all the washing and dishes. That the heater will be turned up and I will be mostly giving orders from bed, or the couch.
The bad in all this is I ache. A lot. I am tired. More than I should be. I have not run in a week. I miss it. I should be happy I can still run at all. That my specialist supports me in this, albeit begrudgingly. But today I can’t see that so much. Today I don’t want driving a car to be an effort. Or making a cup of tea. I don’t want to have to watch how much wine I consume, or remember it’s not just my joints. Lungs, heart, eyes all get a chance at being affected too. As do my kidneys, not helped by daily medication.
Oh it’s all fun and games until someone gets high blood pressure.
I had an image in my head of people with high blood pressure. They were red faced and angry, often with spittle dried in the corner of their down turned mouthes. They didn’t exercise, the were breathless and were old.
Cue me at the GP’s last week. I was there for my hurty knees, which had morphed into hurty knees, back, neck, hips and fingers. While I was there, sorting out anti-inflammaroty and pain medications, my doctor thought he’d just take my blood pressure, seeing as I’m of that age now. We had a bit of a joke about it. He is the same general age. We muttered about teenage children and he put the arm band on. I was far from worried, I’ve never had high blood pressure before. I chatted away while the machine did its work.
It was at this point the GP turned the machine around to let me see the numbers. Now, I don’t know about you, but I have no idea what reasonable blood pressure should look like. But apparently the numbers I was being shown were not good. The words very high were said.
Oh. No big deal, it could be because of the pain I was in. Nevertheless I was sent for a few blood tests, and told to return in a few days for a follow up. Turns out at the follow up my blood pressure was no longer in the very high. No, I’m an over achiever and now it was extremely high. Excellent. Or, you know not.
So, now I am spending some large parts of my days doing not much while this latest health issue gets sorted.
I have been compiling a list. This year there has been a foot injury that took months not weeks to heal. There was the whole breast lump and my need for brave boots. There have been a few arthritis flair ups and now, high blood pressure. It appears I am in fact getting older. Who knew that would actually happen? I mean really WHO KNEW?
I know I am lucky. I have (don’t laugh) relatively good health, I try to keep some semblance of fitness. I eat well. There are beans, legumes, whole grains and lean protein in my diet. There are fresh veggies, fruit and nuts. I enjoy a few glasses of the good stuff, but I figure it’s all about balance.
But, as life would have it, I am ageing. The fact I only feel like I’m about twenty-one (as long as I don’t see my reflection anywhere) appears not to matter. Life has other ideas. It likes to remind me people born when I was at university are now employed and have drivers licences, and they can drink alcohol legally. It likes to remind me I am grey of hair and my eyebrows get these weird extra long ones every now and then. (What is with that by the way?) And as for facial hair. Men and movember have nothing on me.
So, while I am in rest mode, and getting to the bottom of the blood pressure thing, I’ve been catching up with some favourite movies. There is nothing a good period costume drama can’t fix. Ever. Today movies on the couch, tomorrow Morning Melodies and the pokies.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a date with the couch, some tweezers, a magnifying mirror and Mr. Rochester.
I have memories of my grandfather walking slowly in slippered feet. More still of him in a wheelchair, feet shuffling on carpet as the chair was pushed along.
He complained of something being caught in his throat when I visited with my sisters. Emotion stuck, causing an old man to cough.
He has been on my mind of late as I shuffle through the house in my uggs. Walk slowly through the supermarket. People passing on their hurried way. I envy them their quick pace. I notice the hustle of people now I cannot join in. It will return, my hustle. But for now, it is stuck, like emotion in the throat.
Tablets and toast for tea. Washed down with water and the bitter aftertaste of uncoated pills.
My shuffling feet. My slow witted knees. My thick, unyielding fingers. I talk, I write, I walk and I wait. My hustle will return. But while I learn of patience, I think of a grandfather and complain of something being caught in my throat.
There are a lot of posts sitting in my drafts folder. Most of them talk about pain. I don’t like to publish them. I don’t want or need sympathy. I don’t want more unique visits if they just come to read the bad stuff.
But I am consumed with it today. My body has gone into autoimmune overdrive. This is what happens when hay fever takes a hold and your body is already attacking itself with rheumatoid arthritis, a bastard bad* autoimmune disease.
It appears my hay fever allergies have sent out more emergency beacons than usual to the rest of my body and the joints in my knees have decided to join the party. This means I have itchy, watery eyes, itchy nose and skin, a sore throat and for added fun very painful knee joints. Hurrah.
I should be happy it’s just my knees. When my neck gets sore, or my fingers, I usually want to spend the day crying in full on self pity mode. It is exhausting. The pain, not the crying.
I have some pretty good pain killers, they do a good job at taking the edge off the pain. It never really goes away. But I can’t take those today because I’m off to Mumford and Sons with the Green Eyed Girl. Something we have been looking forward to for what seems like forever. So, the good pain killers, that come with the direction not to drive, are out. I know, poor me right. I can’t take the extra good stuff because I have to go see a really amazing band with my really amazing daughter. Boo hoo.
I try not to let the diagnosis take over my life. I work hard at maintaining a low level of pain. Some days I can even forget it is there, just about. Today though is not one of those days. There have been quite a few of those days this year if I am being honest. It makes me tired, all this getting on with things when there is pain. But I know I will get there.
So now, I’m off for a nana nap. Or a disco nap if you are old enough to remember them, and then I will take my amazing girl to see a band, and just for a while, I will be washed away on a sea of sound and I will forget my aches and ails.
*OK, so bastard bad is not actually part of the diagnosis. Technically speaking.
As I type I sit here in self made misery. My body it would seem is reminding me of it’s limitations. Running is something I do once a week at the moment if I’m lucky, because to be honest taking a couple of neurofen twenty minutes before I go just so I can run seems a little ridiculous.
This morning I ventured to the supermarket and it was all I could do to concentrate and get the things I needed without sitting down half way through for a rest and a cry.
Sitting down hurts. Standing up hurts. Laying down hurts. Making a cup of tea takes time and effort, and it hurts.
I am not looking for pity. I am not looking for sympathy. It is what it is. I have what I have and should consider myself lucky it only flairs every now and then. Rheumatoid Arthritis. I hate you this week.
Hate is a strong word, but at the moment it’s apt. I am in constant pain. It is all consuming. I am sore and stiff and slow, slow, slow. Everything I do takes effort. I pop pain meds like they’re smarties and I worry about the up coming Run for the Kids 14km event. I am so unprepared.
But I need to remind myself that life is good. I should be happy that most weeks I can run easily, do the thing I love with sure footed ease. I need to remind myself that this will pass. The pain will become an everyday whisper and life will go on.
I should marvel that my legs carry me the five, six, seven… ten… twenty one kilometres they do without much complaint usually. Should marvel that I live in a country where I can get the drugs I need at a reasonable cost and can, most days keep it all at bay. I should be thankful of the flat screen TV Hubby bought for the bedroom and snuggle under the doona with the remote and my favourite movies for company. Should be happy I can never get enough of watching Pride and Prejudice, Love Actually and Sense and Sensibility.
I should be happy that Hubby takes over all the house work when I am like this instead of us sharing the load. Should be happy I have heating and pyjamas and a good supply of tea.
And I will be fine again I tell myself. I promise. I will be soon. It’s just that right now it hurts and I’m tired. I’ll build a bridge held together with with pain killers, doonas and movies, and get over myself soon. And in the meantime I’ll listen to music, soothe my soul with it’s tones and words. Tomorrow is another day.
Since my half marathon I have only run once, and that is the sum total of exercise in two weeks. As for eating… well, when I don’t exercise that slips too. I am not a stickler for rules, I believe everything in moderation is a good thing. And that means sugar, chocolate and even chips, or crisps if you prefer to call them that. But if I don’t run, then I begin to reason with myself that while I’m not running I may as well eat that third row of chocolate… and finish off that bag of chips.
The problem with that is I just keep on going, not running, eating more junk, drinking less water. I have spare time of a morning to tweet, blog, clean the house. it’s great having that extra hour or so. I think after the half, and the training leading up to it, a break was a good thing. My body is not as young as it used to be, and there’s that pesky rheumatoid arthritis to look after – it does get angry when I’m not kind to my body, and I’d like to avoid pain killers and anti-inflammatoriesÂ that knock me for six if I can. And as I have so far avoided knee surgery, I’d like to keep it that way thank you very much.
But all that not exercising combined with all that eating tends to make me less likeable. I am a grumpy, bitchy, less tolerant person to be around. I sleep less, and when I do sleep it’s rarely restful. I stay up later – a combination I think of eating chocolate late at night, drinking less water and more wine, and (by staying up) trying to make myself sleepy enough to actually fall asleep when I do finally go to bed. Yeah… it’s not a great plan.
Over the last week I have been noticing more people out and about running. I have been watching them pass me as I drive to and from work and I have felt that yearning to be out there again. That need, that want, it’s back.
So, starting this week it’s back out to the tracks and paths I love. I’ll have my trusty run keeper and my favourite running play list as companions. I’ll fill my water bottle and take it where ever I go, and I’ll cut back on the late night chocolate hits. Telling myself I won’t have any never works, I end up giving myself the bird and scoffing more than I was before.
I have a 10km event in less than two months, and I want a really good personal time. I need to focus, build speed and strength. But most of all I need to feel that runners high again. And I won’t feel that sitting on my arse!
To get myself motivated I have already worked out where and when I will run this coming week. I have checked the weather and have planned which gear to wear for each run. Now all that’s left to do is pull my running cap down on my head, plant my earphones and run.
Tell me, what do you do to get yourself motivated? How do you find momentum again?
*Alternate title, The Day Rheumatoid Arthritis came to stay.
Normally on a Monday I spend the day at work, sitting on kid sized chairs, singing The Wally Wombat Shuffle, saying put your coat on, put your coat on, put your coat on, yes a jacket is like a coat, put. your. coat. on.
Not today. After a restless night with a bottle of water and panadol by my side, clock watching for the magic four hour mark so I could wolf down more pain killers, today I have made it from my bed to the couch. Phoned my GP and had a few texts back and forwards from staff at work. Go me. But I’m not sick. I am, however, having a flair up.
Way back when I was twenty one I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. RA for short. Lovely. In lots of ways I have been lucky. I was diagnosed early in my diseases development. So medication has been my friend since then keeping damage and pain minimal. You see while there is no cure for RA, medication helps keep the symptoms at bay. Symptoms that left unchecked cause irreversible damage and disfigurement to the affected joints. There can also be periods of remission. For me, this was while I was pregnant and breastfeeding. So, I had a good four years off.
When I was first diagnosed I did not react well. I loved to run, and was told in no uncertain terms to stop. It was suggested I took up low impact exercise, like water aerobics. Awesome. Just me, some friends I managed to drag along and a bunch of middle aged women – now while I am now perhaps *cough* considered middle aged, as a first year out of uni, young thing about town, water aerobics just wasn’t for me. I also think my original diagnosis and subsequent ineffectual counselling was mismanaged. But, you live, you learn. (Also, thinking about how to live with RA has changed, my GP and a physiotherapist I saw last year both encouraged me to run – just not on hard surface too often. Move it or lose it.)
So, back to today. I am in pain. A fair amount of pain. Look, I was lucky enough to be able to give birth to two children drug free. I didn’t want to cry then, but I do now. My legs hurt. My knees, my calves, my ankles. My shoulders, my wrists my fingers all hurt. Panadol is pretty useless. But neurofen can counteract against my daily preventative meds. Daily meds that mean I need to have blood tests annually now (used to be monthly) to make sure they are not causing liver or kidney damage. So, it’s off to the GP for some harder hitting anti inflammatory drugs. Hopefully ones that don’t upset my digestive system too much. Or make me sleepy and unable to drive.
This flair up came on kind of suddenly. Over the past week I have had some niggling pain as I sit on the couch, but not too much. I wonder if it has happened because I have not been running. Allowing my leg to heal fully from am injury not related to RA? I wonder if it’s because I have let more wheat back into my diet? Or because it’s cold?
What ever the reason, I hope it’s sorted soon. I hate not being at work, I hate not running, I hate the pain and fatigue that RA brings. But, for now, it’s trashy daytime TV, a heater turned up high, a soft blanket, cushions and lots of earl grey tea.
As Dory says, just keep swimming… but no one mention water aerobics.