So much to post about, so little time

May 13, 2010 at 1:09 pm | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 6 Comments
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It’s been ages since I posted! First of all I was on holiday (fab) and then I was back (less fab) with intrays (both virtual and paper) bulging at the seems, even though ‘the boss’ was doing a sterling job of dealing with stuff while I was away. My stress levels weren’t helped by the tax office sending out wrong info about maternity pay just when I needed to look into it, as ‘the boss’ is nearly half way to having a baby! Their calculator told me I could claim back about 10% of what I paid out in statutory maternity pay – which worried me a bit, since I’d thought I could claim back 100%. Turns out I CAN claim back 100% – but I had a stressful week or two before I found that out. Then they decided to keep me on my toes by telling me I’d not paid April’s PAYE, so I had to waste time phoning them up, only to be told ‘Oh sorry – the computer is accidentally sending out non-payment notices every time someone sends in an end of year tax statement.’ Marvellous!! Work itself has been pretty stressful too – but at least busy, which as usual I have to keep reminding myself is GOOD THING!

On top of all this I’ve recently heard that a good, and local, friend of mine has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. She also has RA! As my friend Weeny would say, ‘You really must stop going for those buy one, get one free offers!’ Seriously though – you’d think RA would be enough to cope with!

As to the good ol’ RA, it’s MOSTLY been behaving itself. I thought I was in for a holiday flare as I watched my hands getting redder and redder and more and more swollen as hubby drove us down to Dorset, but a few hours after we had reached our friend’s house, where we were to stay the week, they’d settled right back down. Perhaps my body suddenly went ‘Hey, chill out penguin – you’re on holiday!’ Had a blipette (florette, flarette?) this week, probably due to finding out about my friend’s cancer, but again it hasn’t materialised into a flare, thank goodness.

I’ve also just had a thyroid test (again) because I’m feeling tired and FROZEN all the time. While this MIGHT have something to do with the fact it’s bloody cold and we’re getting early April weather in mid May, I’m frozen even when it’s quite warm, so I think there’s more to it than that. The only time I’m really warm, in fact, is when I’m having a hot flush. Imagine the fun of dressing for a day of being 90% frozen and 10% boiled – it’s kinda tricky!

I think there’s about six things that could be expanded on in separate posts here, not to mention an interesting bit of info about blood tests that Maggie sent me before I went away and that I’m still planning to blog on at some point. But meanwhile it’s nose back to the grindstone – a rather grim mixture of interviews on child abuse and prostitution, and a disciplinary hearing! Oh well – it can’t be chocolate every week – last week was mostly all about chocolate, so I suppose I shouldn’t complain!

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?

I hate computers

March 10, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 1 Comment
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As someone in the office said today, ‘I love what they do … I just wish they did it better’. I had an unbelievable computer day yesterday. My work computer finally died. We won’t go into the fact that I’ve been saying ‘the C drive’s dying’ for a couple of months and the IT guy’s been going, ‘Oh no it isn’t …’ Suffice it to say, it did.

After one HELL of a day I went out for a very pleasent evening of sewing and chatting with the local quilting group (where I don’t quilt but do sew and chat), came home and thought ‘ better check my email’ … so I turned on my laptop and it broke. Honest – just like that. The on button became an ‘in button’ – permenantly pressed in and fallen down inside the computer.

I really thought that was the end of my computer, but I’d gone through stressed and out the other side yesterday and I was, extraordinarly, completely calm! I just decided I didn’t have room or energy to worry about anything else and what would be would be.

I did think all the stress was bringing on a flare last night, but it hasn’t happened – whether that’s because of my determination not to get stressed about this latest thing and to calm myself down, or whether it was never going to happen anyway I shall never know.

Anyway, to ‘cut stories long and short’, I phoned the local IT shop this morning, explained the situation, got a very poor prognosis but ‘bring it in and we’ll look at it …’ I did, he did, he jammed a screwdriver in a place I wouldn’t have dared tamper with and yanked off part of the top and then stood there going, ‘But … but, but, but, but… but …’ interspersed with ‘That’s not supposed to be able to happen …’ and ‘In all my forty years in the business I’ve never seen anything like this …’

Astonishingly the story has a happy ending – or perhaps a happy middle as it’s not totally resolved yet. He showed me where I needed to apply some superglue (of all things!) and then how to put on the bit he’d yanked off, and showed me that the laptop still works! Woohoo! He didn’t charge me a penny and even said if I was nervous about putting the bit of cover back on I could bring it back in and he’d do it for me. That’s customer service for you – and I’ve never even been a customer in there. But you know what – if I want a PC in the future, that’s the first place I’ll look, for sure! A ‘big shout out’ for Ulric Computers!

I shall leave hubby to do the supergluing – feeling far too fumble-fingered after all that, although really I’m sure none of it was anything I did!

Phew – coming out of a flare!

February 19, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 3 Comments
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At last I’m on my way out of a rather prolonged flare! While I’m sure that my consultant would be pleased to point out that it wasn’t much of a flare – I mean I didn’t even need a steroid shot – it was quite enough of one for me, thank you!

I had a very good birthday this year, in spite of being in the middle of the flare. Hubby had the day off too, which he doesn’t often manage, or at least not to coincide with mine, and we had a leisurely morning in Norwich including a trip to the Castle Museum and lunch at ‘The Waffle House’. Because of the whole flare thing we decided to come straight after an early lunch and I spent the afternoon lounging around in bed reading some of the many great books (mostly embroidery-related) that I’d got for presents, before heading off to Mum’s for a yummy meal in the evening. While I’d have liked to have been able to DO more on my birthday, it was still a jolly good day!

I suppose at least I’m finally learning to pace myself. Talking of which, the OT is NOT in my good books at the moment. I drove for forty minutes in stinking traffic through rain and hail and sleet and snow and fog (and semi-darkness for part of it) to get to my OT appointment only to be told, ‘She’s gone home’. Luckily for both of us I suppose a) I like her and b) I know she wouldn’t do that deliberately and c) she phoned and apologised profusely this morning.

I told her she could make it up to me by fitting me in between physio and a hair appointment next week, which she is doing. I shall come away feeling thoroughly pampered after all that: not quite a luxury spa treatment, and believe me, our local hospital doesn’t bear much resemblance to a luxury spa, but the closest I’m likely to get to one for a while!

Bloody marvelous, innit?

February 7, 2010 at 10:32 am | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 2 Comments
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Two days until my birthday and I’m right in the middle of a flare! On the bright side (which is what this blog is all about, although I have to remind myself of that right now), I’ve got most of a day off tomorrow and a full day off on Tuesday, and mum cooking dinner for us Tuesday night (chopped liver to start (sounds disgusting, ISN’T!), roast chicken and trimmings, and a naughty surprise desert have been requested).

Hubby has the day off on Tuesday, which makes a nice change. I just hope I feel up to doing something nice with the day!

Also my birthday starts early – Today Weeny, she of the not-so-great sympathy skills, and her hubby are taking us out to lunch. Pressies are piling up on the table downstairs and looking festive, ocassional bits of sunshine are peeping out through the gloom and the forecast for Tuesday is pretty good, so the outlook’s not as bad as it could be in spite of the various creaks and groans eminating from the penguin (and from hubby at having to listen to me creaking!)

I wish I could live in the dream world my consultant inhabits

December 27, 2009 at 11:03 pm | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 1 Comment
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It’s official – I had a flare at the end of October/early November … and more, I suspect. No kidding. I think I knew that, but this time it actually showed in the bloods! That’s a first for me!! I’ll give the consultant his due though – he was as amazed as I was that the bloods actually matched with how I’d felt, so he does at least appreciate that one can feel totally lousy and have no indication in the blood tests whatsoever, and vice versa.

Anyway, we agreed that things were going pretty well at the moment and that it didn’t seem sensible to go on increasing the MTX willy-nilly if things were OK. I explained that I knew I was much, much better than last time I’d seen him (which I think was well over a year ago, as I’ve since seen a registrar and a nurse but not the man himself), but that they certainly weren’t perfect, and for the first time he admitted that I probably wasn’t going to achieve perfect … I’d kinda figured that out, but still a slight blow to hear him say it!

He then cheerily added that never mind, compared to what he usually saw I really wasn’t bad at all. He has no idea just how bloody irritating this comment is – he’s said it before. I think last time I was too dazed and generally fed up to actually respond, but this time I was properly prepared and I pointed out that I wasn’t comparing myself with his other patients – I was comparing myself to myself before this whole R.A. business started, and that when I do that I don’t see my current self in a terribly favourable light. The nurse who sits in with him (as a chaperon and to make sure he remembers to fill all his forms in!) was nodding sympathetically and understandingly behind his back. I got the feeling she’d heard this comment from him before and had thought exactly what I was now saying. Anyway, he sort of blinked a bit, looked rather surprised at being answered back to and mumbled something that was vaguely conciliatory … I think.

Then he bid me to enter his dream world by saying, “If the MTX doesn’t keep things under control, if you have another flare, we’ll put you on these terribly expensive new drugs called biologics or anti-TNFs.” (He does tend to forget I have a brain.)

I snorted – very rude, but it just sort of happened! I said something like, “Have to be one hell of a flare for the NHS to let me on to those!”

“Oh no,” says he, “just an ordinary sort of flare.”

Well, that’s certainly not the impression I’ve been given by the NRAS magazine, the people on the NRAS forum (other R.A. sufferers, generally in a much worse state than me, who have failed the ‘DAS test’ for anti-TNFs), the press, people I met in Barcelona, the nurse practitioner, the GP, the practice nurse … just about everyone else really. Since this is the man that told me I should see him in three months last time, when it was totally impossible for anyone to get an appointment closer than six months, and the man who told me that all I needed to do if I had a flare was phone and I’d get straight through to someone on the helpline (not true as it’s usually unmanned and then they don’t call you back) I don’t feel too filled with faith about the biologics comment either! I dare say though that his “ordinary sort of flare” would be the ordinary sort of flare that his other patients have, not my little fizzle!

Well, hopefully the MTX will now do its job properly and I won’t need to ever find out whether he’s living in a dream world or I’m just being unnecessarily pessimistic about my prospects for biologics!

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!)

Whether the weather be fine, or whether the weather be not …

November 12, 2009 at 10:12 pm | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 5 Comments
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Today I got my excellent and informative copy of the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society magazine. In it is a very short piece about a very small piece of Norwegian research showing something that will come as no surprise to many RA sufferers: levels of RA pain may be affected by the weather.

I can’t tell you who the researchers were, what research they did or how they reached their conclusions because NRAS, for all the magazine is interesting and informative, haven’t seen fit to share any of that information with us. However, they said that 61% of the people they studied were affected by the weather (although they only studied 36 people), and that different people were affected by different weather conditions.

Well, I’ve noticed in the past that I certainly feel it before a storm, and I’m wondering if my coming and going fizzle (it’s fizzing away merrily again today after a ‘day off’ yesterday) is related to the fact that we’re having lovely, sunny days followed by very wet, rainy nights. Then again perhaps it was the lack of chocolate pizza last night?

I’m afraid I’m too lazy to keep a weather/RA diary and try to work it out, and anyway there are so many weather-related factors that it might be hard to do that without a mini weather station in the garden!

I hope I’ve spelled weather and whether correctly throughout – I’m very tired, so not promising anything on that front!

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!

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