Hospital appointment – only 7 months late

November 20, 2015 at 9:27 am | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 13 Comments
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I’ve just had my April hospital appointment – well, it was supposed to be in April – then they moved it to June .. then they moved it to August … then they moved it to September … then they moved it to November… but this time it didn’t get cancelled. Right, I thought, I’ve seen no one at the rheumy department in 13 months, I’m going to make a LIST of things that I need to ask about, ’cause my memory’s shot. I know doctors hate lists but when you have to wait 13 months for an appointment you don’t want to forget anything, right? Right! Shame I forgot that I’d made the list then, and consequently forgot to ask about the dry mouth, although I think I covered everything else… except memory problems of course. I don’t think a rheumy clinic is going to be that interested in my forgetfulness anyway!

Everything else was more pain and stiffness in the hands and feet than previously, two nasty flares in my knees over the past year and a lump on my finger.

For the first two, my methotrexate has gone up to 20mg from 17.5mg. The nice boy (sorry, young man – I’m getting old, all the registrars look like children to me) was slightly horrified that I started off eight years ago on 5mg (or possibly 7.5mg) as they’re now much more aggressive and he said they’d never start anyone on less than 15mg so really 20mg is nothing. He also said if stomach upsets were a problem them can move me over to a self-injecting pen. I wasn’t too keen on that idea – I’ve only had two or three stomach upsets over the year that MIGHT have related to MTX and it’s possible that none of them did – I have a dodgy tummy anyway!

For the lump on the finger, he said since it was on my left middle finger and I’m left-handed it was probably just where I rested a pen. I said, ‘Who writes these days?! I almost never hold a pen! I type everything,’ to which he laughed, agreed and basically said, ‘Dunno’. It’s not painful and it’s not growing alarmingly so ‘dunno’ is fine for the moment!

The ridiculousness of the DAS score was brought home to me yet again. As the nice boy put it, ‘You might as well be amputated below the knee as far as that’s concerned’ and one of my main problems is feet! Daft! It also included a rating of how has the RA been THIS WEEK. Who gives a monkeys about this week – I haven’t seen anyway for 13 MONTHS! He took that on board too, bless him, and although I scored ‘low disease activity’ with four sore joints and pretty good thank you for this week, he accepted that my RA wasn’t under control if I’d had two bad flares this year; hence the MTX increase.

He also said if the appointments started slipping again, I should phone reception and point it out and they’d stop it happening – my faith in reception, on a score from 1 to 10 – zero. Not that I really think it’s their fault – they’re just the front line when it keeps happening and I phone up and say ‘Oy’ and they say, ‘Not our fault,’ which it’s not!

Anyway, I’ve got a nurse practitioner appointment in February – let’s see how much that gets moved – not that I need it in February – May would be more sensible, but I’m hesitant to cancel!!

Hopefully not the ‘new normal’ … and ‘now in other news …’

October 5, 2015 at 4:58 pm | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 7 Comments
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Well my knee is very definitely better – From being barely able to hobble across the room, one predniselone taper later and I’m almost back to normal – I’m back at work, doing my lunch-time walks again, carrying on as normal … almost. The things is I’m getting twinges in that knee after walks, and I haven’t dared try exercise other than walking yet, and it’s generally more painful and tender than it was – I still have huge tracts of time when it doesn’t hurt at all, I’m delighted to say, but it probably hurts more and more often than it did pre-flare. I don’t know yet whether that’s because things are still settling down after the flare – it’s been nearly two weeks now which is long for me but not long in the scheme of RA things – or whether there’s been some damage done to the knee and this is the way it’s going to be from now on.

Here’s hoping it’s the former!

As to non-RA related stuff, I’m very sad to have to say that ‘Enormous Cat’ died a few weeks ago. We miss him enormously! Well, Hubby and I do. Tiny Cat 2 isn’t the slightest bit bothered! ‘All the more crunchies for me’ I think is her attitude.

On the brighter side, we had a fabulous holiday to Whitby, where we were lucky enough to get a room upgrade in the very nice hotel and had a generally lovely, relaxing time, and, in spite of seriously steep hills, the RA pretty much behaved itself. I did wimp out of a really steep and windy trip up to see a waterfall … but it wasn’t as though we’d planned that anyway. We just stopped in a village cafe for a coffee, got chatting to a couple and their very friendly (and perpetually hungry dog) and he said ‘Have you been up to see it yet?’ And we said ‘See what’ and it turned out there was a fairly famous waterfall there. I did manage to see the wonderful Whitby Abbey, which I had been really wanting to visit for years.


The Yorkshire Moors were magnificent, and yes, we did have some good weather too, in spite of the Abbey photo above with the foreboding clouds!


And Castle Howard was deeply impressive … although the only bit I really liked was the Arts & Crafts Chapel – amazing! (The ‘new wing’, built in 17-something, was also nice, but the neoclassic earlier part of the house I personally found rather cold, although Hubby loved it!)


All in all a very fine holiday – but could have done with another week!

National Arthritis Week – 12-18 October in the UK

October 3, 2015 at 4:57 pm | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | Leave a comment
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It’s National Arthritis Week in the UK from 12-18 October and Arthritis Research UK are running a ‘story wall’ in its honour. My story (in 250 characters, which is a bit mad, but there you go, we’re the Twitter generation!) is up there somewhere on the wall – or will be soon. Why not go and put yours up too? You can see the wall here and put your own story up here.

10 million people live with Arthritis (in all its various forms) in the UK and Arthritis Research UK do a great job in supporting us, so I’m very happy to support them with their efforts for the week. They not only fund research, but also provide patient talks around the country so that we can find out what’s happening research-wise. Hubby and I went to a very interesting one a couple of months ago given by my very own rheumatologist – not that he recognised me – after, I haven’t had a six-monthly appointment for nearly two years, as the hospital keeps cancelling them – but that’s a whole nuther story! Posting about the stuff he was talking about is on my very long list of things to do!

I got latched on to by a very pleasant lady who tried to assure me that all I needed to do was take cider vinegar and honey to be cured. Strange that she was there and very clearly not cured, and yet still spouting this stuff. Funny, things people.

Anyway, I digress – please support Arthritis Week – there’s loads and loads of stories up on the wall already but the more the merrier, and it all goes towards helping arthritis research.

Knee flare

September 25, 2015 at 8:30 am | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 3 Comments
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Poor neglected blog! It’s been neglected till now because RA has been under control and I’ve not had much to say, and now it’s going to be brief post because I’m typing on the iPad mini, which ain’t easy when you’re  used to touch typing!

So so why not use the PC? Because I’m having a great big flare in my left knee and can’t comfortably get my leg under the desk! This also means I can’t work of course! Very frustrating! It started Monday night, I had Tuesday off work and went back Wednesday when it was quite a bit better. Probably a mistake as yesterday (Thursday) it was a whole heap worse.

i phoned the doc and spoke to, I think, a locum.

‘What can I do for you?’

‘I’m having an RA flare in my knee and it’s about the size of a football.’

‘Oh?’ <slightly sceptical voice>


‘I do have RA! Had it about eight years!’


‘oh, right, yes, of course …’

Oh good, he’s finally read some notes!

‘Well’ says the doc, ‘What do you normally do for that?’

‘You give me a prednisolone taper.’

‘Ah, when did you last have one?’

The honest response would have been ‘Duh, I dunno!’ I’m just hopeless with dates! I know it was a while back so I said ‘Maybe a year ago?’ For all I know really it was 2 or 3!

‘i can’t find it on the system.’

‘good grief! I’ve hardly been in the surgery this year! There can’t be that many visits to look through!’

‘Oh, I’m not in that bit. I’m looking at medication and all your monthly repeats are coming up of course.’

I bit my tongue and didn’t say ‘Well go into that bit then.’ I didn’t want to antagonise a man who was (hopefully) going to give me drugs!

‘Hm, I can’t find it. Do you normally start the taper with 4 or 6 tablets?’

durr… I dunno! ‘Four? … Maybe? … I think … Not sure.’

At this point I expected something on the lines of ‘you’d better come in and I’ll look at it and make an informed medical decision’. Instead I got, ‘Well let’s try four. I’ll send the scrip over to the pharmacy for you.’

I have to say he was very pleasant and I’ve shortened the nice chat we had drastically due to iPad typing, but still unsure whether to be grateful to doc for listening to and believing (eventually) the patient, or horrified  at the laissez faire attitude! As it saved me a very uncomfortable trip to the surgery I think I’ll opt for gratitude! Now I’m just sitting with my leg up and hoping the steroids do the trick!

I’m missing an art exhibition I really wanted to see, a workshop on identifying dragonflies and possibly a painting class, over the coming weekend, but I’m catching up on lots of reading and doing some crochet, which I’ve not done for ages, so there are good things ….kinda!

Dry Mouth Can Lead to Tooth Decay

August 12, 2015 at 11:35 am | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 6 Comments
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I’m on my own in the office today, but at least things have quietened down a tad – both work and flare! I’ve been flaring for the last couple of weeks, somewhat on and off but more on than off. On top of that last week I had THREE dental appointments (each at an hour minimum out of my working day, including the travel) to FINALLY finish off this root treatment that’s been going on since the time of the accident. 

On the bright side, the root treatment is DONE! On the not so bright side, in spite of good dental hygiene, decay has been much faster than the dentist would have anticipated and he blames (‘without a doubt’) dry mouth caused by lack of saliva production, since saliva protects teeth from decay. Who knew? Certainly not me! I knew I had dry mouth, often worse at night time but bad in the day too, and on and off just like flares are on and off, but I had no idea that it could cause problems other than me thinking, ‘I could do with a sip of water’.

There are two possibilities I can think of – and no doubt some I haven’t thought of too! One is that I have secondary Sjögren’s Syndrome, which often associates with RA and causes dry eyes and mouth – I’ve not bothered to ask anyone about this because I don’t have dry eyes, and as far as I can tell the test for it, at least in the NHS, is an eye test so I’m sure I’d come out fine! The other possibility is that the Lansoprazole that I take as a stomach protector, to protect against the side effects of the other things I take for the RA, has a number of potential side effects, bizarrely including all sorts of stomach problems (seems bizarre to me for a stomach protector, but there you go) and also DRY MOUTH!

I may be wrong but I can’t imagine getting much out of the GP on this so if I ever have another hospital appointment (the last one having been postponed umpteen times by the hospital) then I will mention it there.

If anyone has any other thoughts or theories I’d be most interested to hear them!

NICE is as blinkered as ever: nothing has changed since 2010

June 25, 2015 at 6:34 pm | Posted in arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 1 Comment
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In January 2010 I ‘reported’ that NICE were refusing to consider treatment of early RA with biologics because one had to ‘fail’ on two other DMARDS first, which would take a minimum of six months, more likely a year. NICE (amusing standing for National Institute for Clinical Excellence, actually have very little interest in clinical excellence; their job is to stop the NHS ‘spending too much’ on drugs etc.)

Now, five-and-a-half years later, after threatening to take biologics away from RA patients altogether because they weren’t ‘cost effective’, NICE has kindly decided to leave things as they are for the moment, according to to a joint press release from NRAS, Arthritis Care and the British Society of Rheumatology (BSR), which you can read here on the BSR website (and also on the NRAS and Arthritis Care sites).

I was pleased to see that Professor Simon Bowman, the President of the BSR, is saying pretty much what I was saying five-and-a-half years ago … because there’s a chance that people at NICE might actually listen to him! He says, quoting the press release:

‘It is false economy not to treat patients with moderate disease with biologic therapy when standard DMARDS fail, as these patients will be higher users of healthcare resources. These patients will require more attendance to primary and secondary care, and are more likely to develop co-morbidities such as osteoporosis, heart disease and have more surgery.’

The press release continues with more things I was saying back then: ‘They are also much more likely to lose their jobs, causing financial hardship […] The personal costs to the individual, the NHS, the impact on the rest of their family and the direct cost to the exchequer in lost productivity and benefits claims is massive.’

Judi Rhys, Chief Executive of Arthritis Care, added ‘NICE does not take account of costs such as reduced hospital bed days or the benefit of people getting back into work. We believe those with moderate RA require better access to these drugs. Not only will it improve lives, but it also makes economic sense.’

Here here! It’s good to see the charities fighting back in language that NICE might understand! Of course it won’t alter the problem that the NHS is completely ‘siloed’ from the Department for Work and Pensions who deal with benefits etc., social services etc. So as far as NICE is concerned, as long as the NHS is ‘saving money’, the fact that there are huge costs to individuals, businesses, the DWP etc. is really irrelevant.

Are you tired of not having your fatigue concerns taken seriously?

June 17, 2015 at 9:03 pm | Posted in arthrits, arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 1 Comment
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Last year I attended the Future of Health 2014 Conference, having applied to be a ‘citizen journalist’ and tweet about the event. There was a big focus there on listening to the patient, and that’s certainly not an isolated event. The excellent Creaky Joints report on the EULAR conference makes it clear that this is a much bigger thing. The thing that especially caught my eye was that FINALLY we’re being listened to regarding fatigue. Fatigue is not correlated to disease activity, a study by the UK’s National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, which I participated in by answering a survey, found; in other words, I can have mild, controlled RA and still be bloomin’ … erm … exhausted the whole time! There’s a good chance that if you’re reading this blog you’re an RA sufferer, and if you are there’s a very good chance you already knew this, but I’m quite sure most of the medical profession did not – and does not, and it is through listening to patients (or patient-led societies) that they are finding out.

Combine this European-wide event with all the patient activity at the American College of Rheumatology event last year, and the fact that even in my little provincial hospital the consultant was genuinely wanting my opinion on things last time I saw him, and I really do feel there’s something positive going on.

I know it won’t be perfect, I know there are still plenty of medics out there who don’t understand RA at all, and even the specialists will often think what’s on their charts is more important than how we feel, but it certainly seems to be a move in the right direction.

The NRAS survey highlighted in the Creaky Joints report indicated that 66% of patients surveyed (in the UK) were never asked about their fatigue and 79% said it had never been measured. At the moment though, there is no generally accepted measurement of fatigue, so any fatigue studies are a bit hard to take seriously. The next stage should probably be to agree a way of measuring fatigue so that studies can be sensibly compared and conclusions reached.

And now NRAS has another survey – this one is all about how much input or influence RA patients have in their treatment decisions, so if you’re based in the UK and have been diagnosed in the last ten years, go ahead and fill it in; your views could form part of the next EULAR conference; who knows!

You know you’re stupidly busy when …

June 9, 2015 at 11:04 am | Posted in arthrits, Me, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 1 Comment
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… the only time you can arrange to meet with your mum to give her some important advice about embroidery is at the doctor’s surgery!

In fairness, it’s partly because she’s stupidly busy too and away for the rest of this week!

We both needed a blood test, and we knew there’d be a bit of a wait, so we met, appropriately enough, in the waiting room! You may remember from my last post, things hadn’t exactly gone according to plan with the blood test attempt, but this time it couldn’t have gone better! When I got there, mum was actually having her test, having arrived a little while before me. It couldn’t have worked out better. As I sat down, she came out from the phlebotomist, we had just enough time to go through her needlework problem and I got called in!

I only waited about ten minutes to be seen and I needed that ten minutes to sort mum out!

Hurrah for the surgery – and I don’t often say that! When things run well, they run really well … a pity they don’t run well a little more consistently!

More blood test trials and tribulations

June 2, 2015 at 3:21 pm | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 1 Comment

Well, I thought I’d cracked the blood test issue – how not to have to wait an hour or so – turn up just before they take the ticket board down at 11am, grab a ticket and wait, hopefully, no more than ten minutes or so. It’s worked the last couple of times …

So I went in at about quarter to eleven and … no ticket board on the wall! Lots and LOTS of people in the waiting room, but no ticket board … o’oh …

So I queued up at reception and said explained that I’d come for a blood test and that I’d understood the ticket board stayed up until 11, and where, pray, were the tickets? It transpired that normally they had two phlebotomists on but today they only had the one, and there was such a long wait they’d taken the board away early as she had to start another clinic at 11! ‘Can you come back tomorrow?’ I said I supposed I’d have to but it was rather awkward as I WORKED, and then I said, ‘But will she be on her own again tomorrow?’

‘Can’t you just come in earlier?’ asked the receptionist. I said that while I could, that would no doubt mean waiting an hour or so, at it had in the past, and since I WORKED I wasn’t willing to do that. ‘When will she have someone else working with her again?’ Blank, fish-eyed stare from receptionist – who has no doubt been cultivating her black, fish-eyed stares ever since she started as a guard-dog – sorry, I mean doctor’s receptionist.

‘Will the other phlebotomist be in tomorrow?’

Blank, fish-eyed stare.

Deep breath. ‘If I come in tomorrow, is it going to be the same situation … ah, or don’t you know? Is the other phlebotomist off sick and you don’t know when she’s coming back?’

‘Oh no – it’s half term – she’s on holiday. She’ll be back on Monday.’

Very deep breath – ‘Why, thank you! That’s what I wanted to know. In that case I’ll come back next week.’

So off I went. I will NOT go back Monday as Mondays are always manic, but I will try Tuesday. I hope I can get a blood test because my repeat prescription is due on Wednesday and if I haven’t had the blood test they won’t give me the prescription! Watch this space.

Tooth aches and irritations

May 31, 2015 at 3:20 pm | Posted in arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 10 Comments
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Well, the last few weeks have certainly been interesting … in the Chinese curse kind of a way, although there have been some great highlights including a couple of painting classes and a textile workshop. Mainly though, things have been rather dominated by toothache … and irritation!

I had a niggley toothache, not bad, just on and off, but with a lot of sensitivity to hot and cold as well, so eventually I bit the bullet (ouch) and went to the dentist – who ummed and erred a bit and said that hopefully it just needed a bit of filing down, but if it didn’t it ‘could be nasty’. Not the words you want to hear from a dentist really. He said if the filing down didn’t work, to come back the next day … it didn’t; I did.

Now bear in mind we’re extremely busy at work at the moment and the dentist is in a village up the road and it takes around 20 mins to get there from work. So a visit takes at least an hour all told – and I had to do two in two days – frustrating! On the second visit he did the briefest of examinations and said, ‘Reckon it’s an abscess – have some antibiotics’ … so I did … but I was cursing because I thought, ‘Why didn’t he just give them to me yesterday, and save me an hour?!’

I got back to work, opened the packet of Amoxicillin, glanced at the leaflet inside and it said, ‘If you’re taking any of these medications, talk to your doctor first’ and one of them was methotrexate!

Muttering under my breath I picked up the phone and phoned the dentist – and had to waste more time trying, and failing, to explain what the problem was to the receptionist. Understandably the dentist wasn’t available immediately – no doubt he had his hands in someone’s mouth – so I waited for him to call back … and waited … and waited …

I knew there was absolutely no chance of getting hold of a doctor that day and, as the tooth was getting worse, I didn’t want to wait until the next day and then I had a brainwave … or perhaps a brain storm (in the old-fashioned sense!) I thought, ‘Hang on – isn’t that 111 number supposed to be the NHS non-emergency number – they can answer queries, I’ll ask them.’ I took a brief look at the website and it said ‘111 is the NHS non-emergency number. It’s fast, easy and free.’ Sounds good, I thought, so I rang it. It was answered very quickly and as I was talking to the pleasant lady who answered I noticed on the same page as ‘non-emergency number’ it said, ‘You should use the NHS 111 service if you urgently need medical help or advice but it’s not a life-threatening situation.’ I felt a bit embarrassed because clearly it wasn’t that urgent, and even more embarrassed when I explained the issue and she said, ‘What symptoms are you having?’ And I said, ‘None – I haven’t even started taking it yet!’ She was lovely though and put me through to ‘a clinician’.

Now I’d done a bit of a checking up on the internet first and the issue is that Amoxicillin can cause the methotrexate not to be properly excreted from the body, resulting in a potential build-up of toxins from the methotrexate. I could find no indication of a) how much MTX you’d need to be on to have a problem b) how much Amoxicillin you might need to have a problem or long you’d have to be on it for or c) How long the effects might last, since I’d had Amoxicillin only about 3 weeks ago for the sinus infection that was part of the reason we failed to get to Barcelona!

The clinician came on the phone. He clearly had not the foggiest idea why it would matter that I was taking MTX and Amoxicillin, so I briefly explained as above. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘you seem to know the answer then.’ Helpful … not! So I pointed out that no, I didn’t know the answer, since the question was having been prescribed it, should I or shouldn’t I take it? What was the level of risk? And so on …

‘Oh … er … um … well’ he said … and so on for a while … ‘I think I wouldn’t risk it really. You need to talk to your dentist.’ I explained I was trying to do that and would continue to do so! I felt very strongly that he really didn’t have the foggiest notion and was just covering his back, as if he had said, ‘Oh I think it’s fine’ and then I died of toxic MTX build-up, that could have been his career down the tubes … and I suspect it was a career that had barely got off the ground so far anyway.

So I called the dentist back – receptionist again – and to look like I wasn’t nagging I said I had a bit more information that I’d previously forgotten to mention (which was true) and explained that I’d also had Amoxicillin in April and wasn’t sure if it stayed in the system. Given that Mr Dentist phoned me back almost immediately this time, I can’t help wondering if she’d completely forgotten to pass on the message the previous time.

‘Oh,’ said Mr Dentist, ‘I’ve got some different information from you … as I understand it, the Amoxicillin can cause a build-up of methotrexate in the system.’ I said yes, that was the information I had too and he said that that wasn’t the message he’d been given from the receptionist. I bit my tongue, swallowed down the sarcy comment on the tip of it and said sweetly, ‘Oh dear – I obviously didn’t explain it very well then,’ which in fairness was probably true!

‘Well,’ he said, ‘You’re a sensible sort of girl. I’m sure you can monitor things and if there’s any problem, see your GP.’ I pointed out that I had no idea what sort of problems this toxicity build-up might cause. ‘Hmm, neither have I,’ said he, ‘you’d have to ask a doctor!’

So – I’ve now lost count of how much time I’ve wasted and really I don’t feel any nearer to knowing if I should be taking the damn stuff or not – but he had looked it up on the drug interactions database and said it didn’t appear to be a major problem, so I started to take it anyway.

The next day I decided that perhaps I should ask the doctor – after all, it’s only a phone-call. With the new surgery system you have to have a phone call first from the doctor and then they see you if they feel they need to, and I was sure they wouldn’t need to for a simple question.

Unfortunately I forgot to call until about 10 am so most of the appointments had gone. I explained the situation to the receptionist and said was there any chance of a call back and she said she’d have to ask someone. Now he was either new or a locum, not sure which, and for reasons best known to himself he decided he’d see me! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaargh, more time wasted!

So I went for my appointment and the first thing the pompous little man said was, ‘I don’t really believe in prescribing antibiotics anyway, but as you’ve been prescribed them … I mean normally the body can manage to heal itself without them. Of course there are some circumstances where one might have to, but it’s quite rare …’

I replied, ‘On the one hand, tooth abscess, notoriously difficult to get rid of; on the other hand, immunosuppressed; don’t you think this might be one of those rare situations?’

He looked quite shocked to have his little lecture so rudely interrupted and, pomposity temporarily punctured, he replied, ‘Oh …er … well … probably in this instance, yes.’

So … back to square one – do I or don’t I take the dratted antibiotics? And the answer was … YES! Take them. I have to say though that even the doctor didn’t seem absolutely 100% sure! He did check the database again and he did say, ‘It’s not even a red warning’ and I had seen on the internet that the evidence for this toxic build-up was quite slight and I, I think, not in humans, so I was somewhat reassured in the end.

I’m glad to say that the tooth does seem to be clearing up, and I’ve not yet keeled over from any toxic build-up!

Hubby did point out afterwards that I could have probably saved a lot of time and effort by asking the pharmacist – wish I’d thought of that! Must try and remember for next time. Another sensible option might have been to ring the hospital rheumatology helpline – but I haven’t used it since my very poor experiences years and years ago and I don’t actually know the number anymore. Next hospital visit, I must get it!

Of course, all this makes it all the more important to go for my monthly methotrexate blood test … and therein (of course) lies another tale … for a later post!

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