Weddings and wearables

April 15, 2010 at 12:57 pm | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 15 Comments
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I have a wedding to go to in August – I’ve mentioned this once or twice before! – but what am I going to wear when I can’t wear ‘nice’ shoes?

I get the feeling (probably erroneous) from my mum that she and other family members  have been discussing how to make sure Polly doesn’t look too awful for the wedding. <Sigh> Shoe-wise I really can’t wear the ugly contraptions that are my everyday-wear, but I want something deep and wide enough to fit my orthotics, closed-toed so I don’t feel self-concious about the RA side of things and that doesn’t look like this:

Dr. Scholl's - Men's Michael Air-Pillo Gel Velcro Shoes, Wide WidthI’m sure you can see why!

Thanks to my ‘interesting’ body shape it’s a sod to find trousers that fit properly so the obvious trouser-suit option probably isn’t a serious option … although I suppose I could alter it … and anyway, it’s going to be summer, so those kind of shoes are going to look wrong with ANYTHING! And I don’t want to look like this:

(With apologies to LimeGreenSquid for nicking his picture. If you object, let me know and I’ll take it down but it’s just soooo perfect!)

Since methotrexate’s magic weight-loss effect seems to have lasted a mere two weeks, I suspect I won’t be losing a few stone before then and presenting a sylph-like figure either, so all in all I’m a bit fed-up. There’s no pleasure in clothes shopping when you look and feel like this and I’ve never in my life had pleasure from shoe shopping – so while I’m really looking forward to the wedding, the preamble is worrying me slightly.

Pumps or flat Mary-Janes won’t fit the orthotics, but at least they’d be flat. Maybe that’s the way to go and a day without orthotics might not hurt toooo much. (I can see the steam coming out of hubby’s ears when he reads this, but sometimes a gal’s gotta do what a gal’s gotta do!)

Whatever I end up with it has to be flat. I don’t fancy spending the week after the wedding in self-induced vanity-related agony!

Bright ideas anyone?

I’m fed up with being a yo-yo!

March 24, 2010 at 10:46 am | Posted in Me, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 7 Comments
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On the plus side, at least a yo-yo goes up as well as down! I’ve had another mini-flare (fizzle, floret?) since I last posted, which is why I’ve been so quiet lately … well, that and the fact that work has been insanely busy lately. I rather strongly suspect the two are connected!

I have posted before, once or twice :-) on the importance of pacing yourself and a week or so ago I gave a great demonstration of exactly how now to do that! Worked long hours, worked part of the weekend, ignored the warning signs, took paracetamol or rubbed in magic herbal rub stuff and just kept on working … and of course woke up one morning almost unable to get out of bed. I did get out of bed … still had deadlines to meet, but came home early in a LOT of pain.

So, what would a sensible person do at this point? Take some painkillers, go to bed and have a bit of a snooze probably. I thought, ‘Well, I don’t feel well enough to work but I still have all this City and Guilds embroidery stuff I need to do, so I’ll go to bed with some research books for that …’

Eventually I reached a point where I HAD to go to sleep, but was still trying not to as I thought that would mean I wouldn’t sleep at night. I got to the point where I realised that I’d need matchsticks if I was going to keep my eyes open and gave in.

At this point I was still in a LOT of pain but did drift off to sleep … and woke up an hour later feeling fine! I know sleep is important, but that’s a really extreme example! And I did sleep well that night too. I must have been really sleep deprived and not even realised it!

Mind you, waking up with five to ten hot flushes (flashes) per night is not exactly helping on the sleep front.

Still, things are looking up – work is now steady (which means that I’ll be panicking in a week or two that there’s not enough), apart from one odd twingey pain in one knuckle I’m not bad on the RA front … the yo-yo is on the upswing again … and will hopefully sit at the top for a while at least!

Puzzling pains

March 11, 2010 at 9:19 pm | Posted in Me, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 3 Comments
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I’ve got two different rather odd pains to add to the usual mix at the moment! One is a burning pain that I get intermittently in my spine, a few vertebra down from my neck. It’s not too bad, just a bit odd, a bit burny and a bit tingly. Bizarrely, my physio thinks this is a sign of a bit of stiffness. Does anyone else get stiffness manifesting as burning?! Well, she’s given some exercises for flexing the upper thorax, and if they work then I guess she’s right.

The other one is that, having found ultrasound fantastically helpful for ages now, I’m suddenly finding it incredibly painful on my acromioclavicular joint. (Excuse my showing off my knowledge of joint names – it took ages for my physio to teach me this one and I rarely get the chance to use it … it’s the little insignificant (until it hurts) joint between the shoulder and color bone, right at the front.) It starts off alright and then it very quickly gets incredibly sore and painful. Physio says she’s come across this happening before but she doesn’t know why, and she wonders if it’s just a bit more inflamed than usual.

I hope it’s NOT more inflamed than usual. Did I speak to soon about averting a flare? Today certainly didn’t help on the stress reduction front – all clients want their work now (if not last week), and one thought I could proofread 90,000 words in two weeks. Well, I could if I had nothing else to do … grrrr… Oddly enough I feel more stressed now with both computers working than I did yesterday with both computers not working. Does this say something about computers, I wonder?

No improvement in patient access to RA treatment in seven years

February 23, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Posted in arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 2 Comments
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According to the Management in Practice website , which is a website for GP practice managers, the delay in getting patients proper rheumatoid arthritis treatment is the same as it was seven years ago. I suppose we should be grateful it hasn’t got worse!

Worryingly, to my mind, they say, “The Commons Public Accounts Committee has revealed that patients could suffer damage to their heart and lungs if access to treatment is delayed.” Well I have two things to say on that point. Firstly it’s not exactly a ‘revelation’ by the Commons Public Accounts Committee, but that’s more of a personal gripe about writing style than anything. More fundamentally there appears to be no recognition that patients could suffer permanent joint damage and a drastic reduction of quality of life if access to treatment is delayed. It’s as though ‘heart’ is the magic buzzword – if you put ‘heart’ in your article, at least when it comes to GPs who are forced to be target driven and probably have a big government target about reducing heart disease right now, then people might take action!

Mind you, they say that the average number of visits to a GP is four, before a patient is referred on to a specialist, and blame this on a lack of GP training. I would have thought that wasn’t soooo bad. It is hard to diagnose. It does vary enormously between patients. And it is possible to show symptoms that appear to be RA and then disappear – it happened to a good friend of mine. So I would have thought that an average of three visits (maybe not four) and attempts at less drastic treatment like ‘take Neurofen’ would not be unreasonable. I was very lucky – I had two visits before my referral and the GP spotted immediately that it might be RA and organised a blood test on the first visit. However if I’d been seronegative (negative RF test) then I shudder to think how long it might have taken!

Apparently, according to the same article on the same Commons report, “GPs receive on average only two hours of teaching on musculoskeletal conditions during their training, including minimal coverage of inflammatory arthritis.” I have to say I find that hard to believe, but if it’s true then it’s pretty scary, and it might explain why it’s taking 6-9 months to get people referred.

They also say that there’s a lack of awareness among the public of what symptoms to look for. I’m sure that’s true, and that does stop people going to pester their doctor when they have intermittent pain, but I suspect another thing that stops people going to see their GP is the difficulty in getting an appointment in the first place! But that’s another story for another post on another day …

An unexpected treat!

November 23, 2009 at 8:13 pm | Posted in Me, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 4 Comments
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We’d intended to have a day trip up to Blakeney Point yesterday, on the north Norfolk coast. It’s an area of slightly bleak but beautiful marshland, famous for its bird-life and a sunsets, and a lovely place for a walk. Unfortunately it was pouring when I woke up, and I was as a stiff as a board and in pain, so pretty much my first thought on waking was, ‘We ain’t goin’ nowhere.’ My second thought was, ‘Then again … it is only half-past-five…’

In typical Polly Penguin doing the positive thing fashion I thought, ‘I’m sure if I go to sleep again I’ll be fine when I wake up, and so will the weather.’ I wasn’t. It wasn’t.

But gradually, with some TLC (and perhaps more importantly coffee) from hubby (and some TLC from middle-sized cat too) I started to thaw and bend, and the sun started to come out, so we thought we’d risk it and go.

I’m so glad we did, although our arrival and first few minutes were not auspicious. It’s quite a long drive so we felt the need to avail ourselves of the facilities and then top up on coffee, but although Blakeney is a famous beauty spot it is remarkably unspoiled. This is of course a GOOD THING … until you want coffee and a loo. I remembered seeing a big sign outside the King’s Arms saying ‘Kenco Coffee served here,’ so we trudged down, me still somewhat stiff and pained. There was a girl outside emptying bins who gave us a blank look and then ignored us. I eventually found the door, which didn’t look too inviting, went in and was me by a fellow giving me another blank stare. ‘Are you doing coffees?’ I asked. Blank stare. Then, ‘Nah, we don’t open ’til twelve.’ I pointed out that the big sign outside saying coffee was being served was, in that case a tad misleading. We walked out to the accompaniment of further blank stares.

Things got better after that. We decided to brave the Blakeney Hotel. Nothing outside to say they served coffee – it’s not the kind of place that has notices outside. Far too grand. In fact it’s not the kind of place that a pair of scruffs in walking boots and wellies felt all that comfortable about going in to, but we thought we’d risk it, especially as nobody really goes to Blakeney Point if they aren’t walking boot/wellie brigade. The charming receptionist said yes, they were serving coffees, and where would we like them? We chose the magnificent ‘sun lounge’ looking over the marsh to the sea, and had a very enjoyable coffee there before heading off on our walk. Nicely thawed I felt able to tackle a short potter around on the marsh.

We did even have some sunshine! Then hubby said, quite unexpectedly, that he thought he’d treat me to lunch at the hotel! Yum! I’m sure that melon with lemon sorbet and a port syrup, followed by roast pork with all the trimmings and a rhubarb and ginger trifle would not be what the rheumy would recommend, but hey, it was a treat and it was absolutely delicious! Service was very good too on the whole, although there was some confusion regarding post lunch coffee. (Yes, I know, I drank too much coffee yesterday!) We got it in the end though, and it rounded off a lovely meal very nicely. We sat in the Sun Lounge again and watched the rain lashing down outside!

By sheer amazing luck we’d just decided we’d better wend our weary way when out came the sun again, so we didn’t even get wet walking to the car park. Did get this lovely shot of a boat against the stormy sky, with the sun catching it just right.

Boat at Blakeney

Then home past a lovely rainbow, and even got to see a barn owl drifting along in a field by the side of the road. One of my favourite birds and always a treat to see.

So a day with a very unpromising start certainly turned out to be full of promise after all. And talking of promise, hubby’s promising me one of his Hubby Special Shepherd’s Pies, so I need to go and eat it. (Although you’d think after yesterday’s lunch I wouldn’t need anything for a week!)-

Life without RA seems like a lifetime away

November 19, 2009 at 11:00 pm | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 2 Comments
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I do hope that RA hasn’t come to define my life, but I when Robin at The Truth About JRA asked me about a medical test I’d taken some years ago and I couldn’t remember I found myself thinking ‘That was before R.A. Well … I can’t be expected to remember THAT far back!’

I was diagnosed eighteen months ago.

That scares me. I’m not sure what to ‘do’ with this realisation that RA has become such a big part of me … possibly the best thing would be to screw it up in a small ball and throw it in the waste paper bin.

Thank goodness that if I wake up with this thought at four in the morning I have my trusty iPod to console me – newly loaded with two excellent glum thought-destroying missiles – Cranford (a present from hubby) and Pride and Prejudice (a present from me!) I can also picture Wren building a chocolate pizza, which is sure to cheer me up!

Wet, wet, wet …

November 16, 2009 at 10:38 am | Posted in Me, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 8 Comments
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Ouch, ouch, ouch.

It rained all day on Friday, and I had to come home early from work because I was in a significant amount of pain and just not working effectively. It is entirely possible that teaching ‘the boss’ to crochet was not the best move for either my achy hands or our workload, but it was fun!

Ohoh, I thought, here comes a proper flare … then, curiously, in the evening I felt much better (even though it was still wet). The next day I woke up with one of my approximately five-monthly periods! I’ve said before that I often find I’m completely R.A. symptom free while menstruating, and sure enough I was almost symptom free over most of the weekend …apart from period backache of course … well, there’s always something.

It probably helped that we had a beautiful day yesterday, sunny, bright, deep blue autumnal sky, gentle breeze, trees clinging on to the last of their leaves, almost sparkling in a variety of fiery hues … lovely. (Why isn’t fiery spelled firey? Sorry, I have a tendency to go off on tangents like this … you may have noticed.)

Unfortunately it’s been pouring most of the night and it’s still pouring now … and I HURT! ‘The boss’ has a day off today so, as there are only the two of us, I ought to be here manning the (dead quiet) phones, just in case I miss something vital. Not sure how long I’ll stick it though! The problem is, the moment I do decide, ‘That’s it, I’ve had enough!’ and go home, I know some client will ring with something vital. (I even know which client … the same one that picks every single occasion when I’m away to find something urgent that needs doing!)

So I shall probably struggle manfully (womanfully, penguinfully?) on and just collapse these evening in front of some silly comedy on the telly or something. At least I know there is some silly comedy to collapse in front of. There’s Miranda at 8:30 – I’m still not sure about this. It’s only had one outing so far, last week, and it’s very old-fashioned Victoria Wood style humour, pretty basic gags, but the lead, Miranda Hart, is very good. Then there’s huge tracts of the wonderful ‘Jeeves and Wooster’ series to watch, as Hubby got the whole shebang from my bro for his birthday. It’s the series with Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie in the eponymous roles. (Not sure I’ve used eponymous correctly there, but it’s a great word, isn’t it?) It ran to four series and is ideal to watch when feeling ‘carp’. The script takes a few liberties with the original P G Wodehouse stories, but I rarely find it worries me, and Fry and Laurie have absolutely become Jeeves and Wooster for me, to the extent that when I read the original books I hear Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie’s voices in my head! (Hmm, afraid that last sentence makes me sound crackers, but never mind … I probably am.)

Right back to work … oh joy … Mantra for the day: “Me gusta mi trabajo, Me gusta mi trabajo, Me gusta mi trabajo…” (I like my work in Spanish … Hoping the mantra might a) help me learn Spanish, and b) convince me that me gusta mi trabajo! (I do … really I do … just not today!)

Seem to be OK today …

November 11, 2009 at 2:35 pm | Posted in Me, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 15 Comments
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I was getting to the point yesterday afternoon where I was fairly convinced I was having at least a fizzle … some reasonably significant pain in the afternoon, tiredness too, and by the time I went to bed I couldn’t find a comfortable position because however I lay something hurt.

I’d had a busy, fun evening and a very unhealthy dinner! Yesterday was the night of our local sewing/quilting/crafting/whatever group and as a friend of mine who works locally but lives some way away also goes along, I asked if she wanted to come back to ours for a quick bite to eat before we went. I warned her it would only be pizza because we were in a hurry … so not a healthy start there … and she kindly contributed a chocolate putting with chocolate sauce AND cream for afters! Oh dear … but yum.

Anyway, here’s the thing … I feel much better today! So perhaps pizza and chocolate pudding is my ideal RA diet?

Erm no … before i got lots of angry comments, I’m not entirely serious! But it does show how careful you have to be not to attribute RA (or lack of it) to things without doing some serious research and testing!

My (Super) Hero

October 29, 2009 at 10:42 pm | Posted in arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, Me, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 5 Comments
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Picture the scene: it’s three in the morning and I’m in pain and wide awake. Tim Piggot-Smith has failed me – for once even his dulcet tones reading David Starkey’s Monarchy: The Beginnings haven’t lulled me to sleep. Neither has a podcast of a lecture from the wonderful Dr. Stuart Lee on Anglo-Saxon History – my other failsafe. I’m at my wit’s end.

Suddenly there’s a crash, a bound, and a superhero comes flying through the bedroom window and lands on the bed with an enormous thump. Yes, it’s The Grey Shadow, feline super-hero extraordinaire, to the rescue. A lick, a purr and I’m already feeling better.

Soon the gentle sound of purring has done the trick and I’m fast asleep.

I wake up at around 5:30 and The Grey Shadow has mysteriously disappeared. My ankle’s in agony. Why? Ah yes – Enormous Cat is fast asleep on top of it. I wonder where The Grey Shadow went? He would have been far too considerate to sleep on my ankle.

Thanks to Wren at The Rheuma Blog for reminding me about this incident with her post on wee beasties! What would we do without them? I’d far rather put up with the discomfort of the occasional sore ankle than not have these nocturnal visits from my superhero at all!

Enormous Cat

Enormous Cat

This is enormous cat. You can tell it’s not The Grey Shadow, in spite of the general similarity in colour and size. The Grey Shadow wouldn’t be seen dead on a pile of washing!

I lose the local photo competition again

September 2, 2009 at 3:03 pm | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 5 Comments
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Once again I entered the local photo competition this year – I’ve entered it for the previous three years, since it started, and I’ve always been shortlisted, and even won some small-scale prizes, but never won a top prize. This year I was shortlisted again, and I dithered about whether to go to the prize presentation or not … you know what these things are like; lots of standing around, which I’m not so good at these days, making inane conversation with people you don’t know and wishing them luck out loud when really you’re wanting to win yourself (not that I’m an overly competitive penguin of course), and wondering when you can go home.

On the other hand I like to support local events when I can … especially when they occur in the building where I rent an office. They notice if I don’t turn up!

I asked hubby’s opinion and he said, ‘Oh go along and practise losing gracefully again.’ I went along and practised losing gracefully again. Trouble was that there was nowhere to sit. Well, that’s not quite true – there were about forty people and about two chairs. I suppose I should have gone in with my stick and a conspicuous limp in order to look like someone who needed to sit down … but the organisers might notice that the limp only lasted for one evening, since they see me every day!

I couldn’t have asked the very frail looking elderly gentleman to give up his chair.I COULD have just thrown a woman’s handbag off the other chair and sat on it, while gently nudged away a man who was leaning on the back of it, but I decided to sit it out … or rather stand it out.

Well, I lost gracefully … well, fairly gracefully … well, apparently gracefully even though I was sulking inside, but I came away feeling extremely chuffed nonetheless. Why? Because I remembered that last year I couldn’t attend the ceremony at all because I KNEW I couldn’t stand up for even ten minutes or so, and I KNEW I would feel wretched the next day if I went. Another little proof of how much better I am this year.

I was a tad stiff this morning, whether from standing or sulks I’m not sure, but nothing serious, and now it’s mid-afternoon and I’m fine. I’ve even revisited the exhibition of photos and grudgingly admitted that the winning picture is rather good!

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