Two steps forward, one step back…

July 12, 2016 at 2:28 pm | Posted in arthrits, arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 10 Comments
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Well, yes, the knee flare was completely over … for a few days. I was just getting back into the swing of things, gradually building back up the length of my lunchtime walks from a few hundred yards to half a mile, to three-quarters of a mile … thinking I’d soon be back to the mile-and half … and then I woke up in the middle of last Friday night thinking ‘Ouch!’ I’m telling myself it’s not really flaring this time … I haven’t decided yet whether I’m lying to myself.

I certainly don’t want another dose of prednisolone just yet… if they’d even give me one, which I doubt. Having said I never have side effects, Carla happened to mention that sleeplessness and irritability are major side effects of pred, and guess what… I had a really sleepless and irritable week while I was on it – I just failed to attribute it to the pred. Now it all makes sense. And OMG, the night sweats!! I had no idea that was a side effect and I get hot flushes anyway so I just thought, ‘Coo, bad hot flushes, much worse than usual!’ I was slightly worried that this was more than hot flushes as the ‘sweats’ part was a whole lot more dramatic …again, I hadn’t realised this is a common side effect of the pred.

Now I’m still ALL for the steroids – the side effects, now I realise  that’s what they were, were horrible, but the flare was much, much worse. The side effects I personally experienced were definitely the lesser of two evils and the pred let me carry on with my life and work, which I couldn’t have done without it. However, having said that, it does make the thought of another does quite unappealing if it can be avoided.

This time round the knee’s not hot, it’s not especially swollen and it’s not actually madly painful … it’s stiff but bendable, so really quite different to the definite flare I recently experienced.

Remember those knee-strengthening exercises I was doing, so that if I flared again I would have strength in the surrounding muscles and hopefully come out of it faster? No? Well you wouldn’t because I forgot to post about them. Unfortunately I have also forgotten to do them for the last few months, which is a pity really because I suspect that’s what the problem is now. As a horribly unfit person, having a bit over a week practically off my feet  means I do need to build up those muscles etc. again and I think the minor pain and stiffness I’m experiencing is probably all about that.

So, spend goodness knows how long fighting for a doc appointment, to be told, if I’m lucky, that they’ll refer me to physio, which will take six weeks minimum, by which time I hope I’ll have recovered anyway, or just carry on and hope? I’m going for the latter at the moment. Wish me luck!

The frustrations of not having a relationship with your doctor

June 29, 2016 at 4:32 pm | Posted in arthrits, arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, joint pai, Me, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 7 Comments
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Thanks to the state of the NHS today (which, if you read this blog often you will know I harp on about endlessly) it is simply not possible to have a relationship with your GP these days (unless you’re incredibly lucky or live on some tiny island that actually has its own GP or something!) My GP practice has around 10 GPs plus locums. It’s pot luck who you get to speak to when you call and they phone you back, and then if they decide you should be seen you won’t see the person you spoke to that morning.

It also seems that they don’t have much of a relationship with the hospital and seem to have some sort of mythic belief in the power of the rheumatology helpline, as I’ve also mentioned before.

The myth

The patient calls the GP because they have an RA flare. This is a shocking waste of the GP’s time because these lucky, .lucky patients have an RA helpline that they can call and that will solve all their problems. They can speak to a lovely nurse* straight away and the nurse will wave her magic wand, waggle her magic pixie ears and solve the patient’s problem.

* Actually that’s the only true bit – the one we have at the moment IS a lovely nurse!

The facts

The lovely nurse, or even a secretary or receptionist, never EVER answers the helpline. It is an answerphone. That’s the way it’s set up. It’s not an answerphone on odd occasions when they’re exceptionally busy, it’s ALWAYS an answerphone. The message on the helpline says something like: ‘If you’re calling about a non-RA related problem, please call your GP. If you’re calling to change an appointment, please call reception. If you’re calling about an urgent need, please call your GP. If you’re calling to buy fish, please contact your fish monger. If you’re calling to moan about Brexit, please contact your MP. If you’re calling because you’re a moron, voted ‘Leave’ and can’t work out what a helpline is for, please call someone else and bother them. Now, if you really, really want to leave a message, we suppose you can. Give us your hospital number and name and telephone number and we’ll try to call you back in 24 hours – but no promises mind.’

I don’t know about you (actually I probably do, if you have RA) but I consider a flare pretty urgent.

While in an ideal world I would sit back on a couch, watch the telly and let my servants feed me grapes while I rested my knee and waited to see if it would clear up on its own, I do actually have a life (and no servants, and hubby is great but also has a life, and the cat just ain’t interested in helping), so I can’t just sit about and rest it. On that basis I can’t wait potentially 48 hours or more for the helpline to phone, and the nurse say, ‘Call your GP and get some prednisolone’ because then I can’t call the GP until Monday  as 48 hours is Friday morning and by the time I’ve heard back from the helpline the GP has run out of appointments. By that time I will have been flaring for over a week!

What Polly did Next

So … I went to the appointment grudgingly granted me by the grumpy GP. (Ooh, nice alteration that penguin!) Fortunately it’s with a much more pleasant locum GP than the one I spoke to on the phone. Unfortunately of course she doesn’t know me from Adam (or strictly speaking, as a doctor, she can probably spot I’m not Adam from the wobbly bits, so I should say she doesn’t know me from Eve). This means that she doesn’t know if I’m a moron or not, and therefore has to assume I am, as we always have to cater for the lowest common denominator.

‘How can I help you?’

‘I’m having an RA flare in my knees, as usually particularly in my left knee. It’s stiff, not very flexible and painful at times.’

‘Have you called the helpline, because really -‘

‘Yes.’

‘Oh, and what did they say?’

‘I said I’d called them, not that I’d spoken to them!’ I then explained, gently, ’cause she was a locum and therefore wouldn’t necessarily know any better, the realities of the helpline. (I didn’t mention Brexit or fish mongers.)

‘Hmm, you had a blood test only yesterday and your bloods were hardly elevated at all.’

‘They never are.’ The mere fact that my bloods are even a smidge elevated is a pretty strong indication of a flare with me. Sometimes I flare and there’es no indication whatsoever in the bloods. Now this is where a doctor relationship would come in handy. If she’d actually known me, known that I’ve had RA for nearly ten years, known that I’ve had umpteen flares in my left knee, known that blood tests are not a helpful indicator with me, known that I have a brain, we could have skipped the pointless bits, more of which are coming up.

‘Ah, well let’s have a look.’ Prod, poke.

‘Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!’

‘Did that hurt when I pressed there?’

‘No, I just thought I’d make screamy gurgling noises for fun.’ (Nope, I didn’t really say that either, I just said yes.)

‘Can you bend it?’

‘This much.’ Demonstrated a very slight bend.

‘Ah. Have you tried pain killers… like paracetamol?’

I’m afraid I just looked at her and laughed, finally managing to choke out a ‘yes’, followed by ‘interspersed with ibuprofen.’ She looked amazed that I’d been able to think of painkillers all by myself.

‘Well I’ll prescribe a course of steroids. Now if they don’t work, we’ll have to consider other possibilities like osteoarthritis, as they should work for RA.’

‘Well, they’ve worked every other time I’ve had them, so touch wood that they will this time too.’

‘Oh … right.’ Look of mild astonishment, either that I’d had them before (it’s in the notes dear) or that I actually knew that I’d had them before, who knows.

So I thanked her very nicely, ’cause I’m a well brung-up penguin … and I might run into her again, and off I went to the chemist to get my steroids.

Again, after nearly ten years of RA, I think I recognise an RA flare when I see one … I really hope I’m not proved wrong and that the steroids do work again this time and it doesn’t turn out to be OA. That would be sooooo embarrassing after this post!

Wow – where did that come from?

June 27, 2016 at 1:38 pm | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 3 Comments
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I haven’t posted for a while because I haven’t really had much to post about – health-wise I’ve been good. I’ve been a bit stiff in the mornings for the last few days, but nothing to write home (or indeed blog) about. Then today I woke up stiff and tired, having had a migraine try to start in the night (successfully stopped with drugs!) I really couldn’t wake up for an hour or so this morning – not literally, I got up, had breakfast, went to work, but felt really brain fuggy. (Can’t blame the methotrexate as I take it Monday evenings and it’s Monday morning!)

Then when I got up to go to lunch, or rather tried to, I started to stand up and ended up collapsed back in my chair. No dramatic pain or anything – I was just so all-over stiff that joints weren’t doing what they were supposed to do! So after sitting a minute or two and flexing various bits (luckily on my own in the office so no one to see how weird I looked) I managed to get up and go for a short walk. I’ve been trying to walk about 1.5 miles at lunchtime but today I didn’t make 0.5 miles! The stiffness did mostly ware off but I was left with significant pain in the good ol’ left knee, where I usually get a flare if I’m going to have one. I’m really hoping I’m not!

Perhaps it’s the stress of ‘Brexit’ – the ‘Wow – where did that come from?’ title could also apply to that and it seems that partially to blame (apart from racists, stupid people and perhaps a handful of people with genuine concerns) may be the polls (as opposed to the Poles, which a lot of East Anglia would like to blame, I’m sad to say). The polls kept saying we’d vote to stay, so people decided that it wouldn’t matter if they had a ‘protest vote’. ‘Let’s vote leave, just so the government can see we’re annoyed with them – we’ll end up staying anyway.’ I’ve actually heard people say it, and then there’s this http://article in the Independent. No doubt people like this thought they were being terribly clever and original, but you get enough people doing the same thing (not that original after all guys) and guess what, we end up voting Leave.

Never mind the embarrassment of waggling stiff limbs about randomly in front of people, I feel embarrassed to be English at the moment! (I would say British but the Scots voted to stay!)

Hopefully the stiffness and knee pain will be a short-term issue. Alas, the same cannot be said for the state of Britain!

Really hoping to get a full day’s work in

January 26, 2016 at 3:13 pm | Posted in arthrits, arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 3 Comments
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Well the knee is certainly a whole lot better and I’m now tapering off the steroids – I ended up with 11 days on 40 mg and then a taper down to nothing. The bad news is, not surprisingly, it’s not 100% better yet, and so far I haven’t managed a full day’s work since this started. Fortunately (not from a financial standpoint, but otherwise) we’re not that busy right now. I’m not too worried as that’s often the case in January and there are things simmering away that should come in over the next few months, and it does mean that if I just can’t manage a full day then so be it. At least the boss can’t get cross with me! (Having said that, I’m probably my own harshest critic, so I guess I can get cross with me!)

On top of the whole knee thing, yesterday I had what was pretty much certainly a full-blown methotrexate-related stomach upset, so I’m very glad now that I’m going on the injected stuff in a couple of weeks! Feeling OK today, if a little tired, but I was a complete wreck for a while last night – thank heavens for Imodium is all I can say!

Still, even if I don’t last all day today at work, I’m confident that I’ll be doing so by the end of the week, so things are on the up! I hope things are going well for all of you too.

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!

The last few weeks – mostly ‘pants’ but some great highlights!

May 3, 2015 at 12:48 pm | Posted in arthrits, Barcelona, crafting, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 2 Comments
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It all started on Good Friday (aka the first day of passover). I had to work all day and when I got home I had a slight cough – but hey, I often have a slight cough. I thought no more of it and went of to dinner with my mum and visiting bro and SIL (aka Mr and Mrs Mooseface). A very nice dinner it was too. We got home and I felt cold … then I felt REALLY COLD! Eventually, when huddled under two duvets, wearing a dressing gown and thick bed socks and with a hot water bottle cuddled up to me, I thought ‘Hmm, I wonder if I’ve got a temperature?’ I did. it was 101.2 degrees – pretty high. The next day was a big Passover celebration with a bunch of cousins and I missed that completely! NOT HAPPY!  ‘Heck!’ I thought, ‘we’re supposed to be off to Barcelona in just over a week – I hope I’m OK for that.’ It turned into a very nasty bug with a sore throat, cold, stomach problems and aches, similar to flu.

To ‘cut stories long and short’ as a South African coach driver I once met used to say (a lot, which is why it’s stuck in my head for over 30 years!) I wasn’t – and neither was hubby, who trumped my temperature by going up to 102.2 two days before we were due to fly – by which time I had also contracted sinusitis.

We didn’t go!

(Mind you – if we’d had travel ‘fun’ like Mr and Mrs Mooseface did on their recent holiday, maybe we were better off staying at home!)

I’d been looking forward to this trip for years – literally years – since I was last there, in fact. A bit of a disappointment then (says Penguin with true British understatement). I was also off work for the whole week before our ‘holiday’ which caused some problems, as you can imagine. I was determined though that as a) I still felt pretty rotten and b) I was darned well going to have a holiday, I wasn’t going back in my ‘holiday week’ so I didn’t … which caused more problems. At least the boss couldn’t tell me off ’cause I’m self-employed.

Toward the middle of what should have been our Barcelona trip, hubby started to feel better, and my antibiotics for the sinuses began to work, so we decided on a couple of days’ holiday on the north Norfolk coast – ’cause neither of us felt up to driving very far. I found a hotel on TripAdvisor in Old Hunstanton which was really lovely and the weather couldn’t have been better – in fact weather-wise we could have been in Barcelona! The hotel was very quiet, had excellent food and a bar open all day, and was less than ten minutes walk from a rather lovely beach – just right for a pair of old convalescents! It did us both the world of good!

Unfortunately it ended all too soon (although Enormous Cat says it went on far too long*) and we had to come back home. I did manage to get some crafting done at the weekend though, before I went back to work – I nuno felted four scarves, so pretty pleased with myself there! (No photos as yet, I’m afraid!)

All this time the RA had been pretty much dormant, quiescent or however you’d like to describe it, which was generous of it given everything else that was going on!

Then back to work – oh boy was that hard after two weeks away – and we are SO busy, and stupid things kept happening, mostly my own fault – or at least the fault of the fact my work-brain was temporarily disconnected! That situation (both the business and the disconnected work-brain) hasn’t really resolved over the last couple of weeks!

I have got very into my nuno felting though and then I discovered ‘paper fabric lamination’ here at Felting and Fibre Studio. A whole new world of nuno felting potential! Unfortunately I also discovered that the RA’s back … it’s probably not even ‘flarette’ stage right now but it’s niggling away and making me tired and somewhat achy, not helped by the fact that the beautiful weather we had briefly has now gone and it’s dark and gloomy out there again!

Bee amd flower

Bee and flower – the bee is a chocolate wrapper and the flower is rag paper – note to self – don’t use rag paper again – it’s tricky to scrape off what you don’t want!

Ammonites 2

Ammonites – the Ammonite shapes were Japanese lacy paper. The colour is brusho wash. The fabric they’re felted into is cheesecloth and yellow and gold wool along with some silk strands are nuno felted into it

I have just about (with many small breaks for coffee and a sit down!) managed to make a couple of small samples with paper fabric lamination and nuno felting (see above) – and I reckon that this could easily be incorporated into scarves and other clothing and would wear just fine – even the metallic bits – see the bee in ‘bee and flower’- so that’s quite exiting. (Well it is for me – but I’m a bit odd like that!)

Felting, however, is NOT kind to RA joints! I’ve been working on ways of minimising the problems, like using a sander (noisy!) and a tumble drier (not enough control) so I’m back to just doing it in small spurts and in small pieces! These two together are only a about 10 inches across and 6 down! When I feel better I’ll try it in some silk chiffon and then maybe make a scarf or two incorporating some fabric paper laminated features.

To flare or not to flare – that is the question

March 17, 2015 at 3:01 pm | Posted in arthrits, arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, joint pai, Me, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 9 Comments
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I woke up yesterday morning with really bad pain in my hip/lower back, but by lunchtime it had passed off, so I had a lunchtime walk yesterday as usual, and very pleasant it was too, until about half-way round, when I got a very sharp pain in the side of my foot, just behind the little toe. (Same leg as the hip pain.) By the time I got back to work the pain was coming in short, sharp bursts lasting up to about 10 seconds and then was fine in between … but in between wasn’t very long! It was happening at least twice a minute. I took paracetamol and, three hours later, ibuprofen, but to no avail. We had to go shopping that night and I limped around the supermarket and then asked hubby to drive home as I was in too much pain. It wasn’t the worst pain I’d ever experienced but it was BAD. My foot just in that area was bright red and swollen, so that sounds like RA, but the odd coming and going of it doesn’t seem quite right. I THINK it was RA and I’m just a weird patient!

Anyway, of course being Monday last night was m-m-m-methotrexate night. I went to bed still in a LOT of pain, and woke up in the middle of the night thinking, ‘OOOH, my foot hurts’ and then again, some time later in the middle of the night, I think around 3:30, thinking ‘OOOH, my foot DOESN’T HURT!’ And it hasn’t hurt since. I have no idea what’s going on or why, but MAYBE it was lucky that that happened on a Monday and the methotrexate kicked in. I don’t think it’s supposed to work like that though, is it? It’s supposed to be a slow build-up, not a week by week thing. Perhaps it was just a short, sharp flare-ette and just finished then. Perhaps it wasn’t RA at all. They mystery of what is and isn’t RA is certainly … mysterious …

That reminds me of the time a few weeks ago when I was getting sharp pains and bad headaches that felt like they were on the outside of my skull. Not the first time this has happened, you may recall. Oh dear, I thought, I hope this isn’t giant cell arteritis – I think it’s that sort of symptom … and then I realised I was wearing a hair-slide that was being pushed into my head by my transcription headphones! Much relieved that I worked this out by myself and didn’t bother the poor, overworked GP with it!

Anyway, the good news is that the answer seems to be ‘not to flare’ at the moment, but I’m having a day off walks this lunchtime just in case it happens again!

Exercise oops!

February 12, 2015 at 10:20 pm | Posted in arthrits, fibromyalgia, joint pai, Me, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 2 Comments
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Well, after a food-laden Christmas and New Year, I finally got round to some serious dieting and an exercise plan about three weeks before my (inevitably food-laden) birthday!  Having had a fabulous weekend away in Ely and Cambridge, staying in the delightful  Poet’s House Hotel and eating their delicious dinner and delicious breakfast (scrambled eggs and smoked salmon on brioche, plus fruit juice, coffee, cereal, bits and bobs … no need for lunch then!), I thought I’d have just a nibble at lunch time. We popped into a coffee shop in Cambridge and I chose what I honestly thought was a small, and fruity, cake type thing so I could say ‘well at least it was fruit’ – only it turned out to be cherry crumble and came with ice cream. Oops.

So anyway, the point is that I decided I’d better get straight back on the wagon. No problem with the diet – right back into the healthy food as soon as I got home, helped by my birthday present from my friend Debbie – a healthy food hamper! The exercise was a bit more of a challenge though. I try to get a walk every lunch time but this week I’ve managed it precisely once. OH DEAR! Today my excuse for not going, apart from being incredibly busy at work and it being grey and gloomy and COLD outside, was that I was going to do my 20 minute embarrassing exercise video thing this evening.

Well of course I got home and didn’t want to do the exercises – so I thought ‘JUST GET ON WITH IT! If you stop, you’re done for!’ So I just got on with it. (Bet you weren’t expecting that, were you?!) I actually got through my 20 minutes (20 minutes and 40 seconds if you’re counting… I was) and was very pleased with myself that I’d done it, although not at a good, high energy level, BUT … my feet felt like lumps of lead (semi-molten) and my knees felt like lumps of wood and the rest of me felt … well, I’ve felt better. Rather disappointing since the last exercise I did, on Saturday morning, went absolutely fantastically and I felt great afterwards – if a little sweaty!

Now, four hours later, my feet still feel like semi-molten lead and my knees feel like … well, maybe balsa rather than mahogany but still not knees … and I’m thinking ‘OOPS – I think I might be going into a flare’ … in which case forcing myself to exercise probably wasn’t the cleverest thing to do after all … but hey, who knew?! I was fine early today – it’s just sprung itself on me.

Hopefully it’ll be one of my famous ‘flarette’s’ and I’ll be all right after a good night’s sleep. Anyway, having just re-read my last blog, I feel a whole lot better already. Today certainly isn’t as bad as that day was!

As things have been so good over the last few months I’m not taking any anti-inflammatories at the moment (with the blessings of my consultant), but I can always take some if need be (also with blessings of consultant), so that should sort me out if it doesn’t sort out naturally.

The day from hell!

January 7, 2015 at 9:53 pm | Posted in Me | 2 Comments
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Happy New Year everyone! OK, as soon as I wrote that title I realised that today actually hasn’t been that bad. I’m not ill (although I made up for that in December with a bad, chesty cold, a cracked rib from coughing, and a stomach upset, as well as RA niggles), the family’s not ill (including cats) and nobody’s died … well, of course people have died, but no one close to me. (Terrible news from France though!)

So what’s made the day from … erm, purgatory? Well it probably started yesterday when I was definitely suffering from methotrexate brain fug! I was just forgetting almost everything, and what I wasn’t forgetting I was getting wrong – unhelpful in the first week back at work!  Today began bright and sunny and I was munching my breakfast thinking ‘Today’s bound to be better than yesterday! What a lovely day. La la la la la …’ Silly penguin! Tempting fate that was.

It all started to go down hill when the lovely sunny day led to having to de-ice the car – a good upper-body work-out for sure, but not much fun with a cracked rib. Then I got into work and remembered a big piece of work I’d been putting off since November so thought I’d better tackle it. BAD idea. It went horribly wrong – I ended up having to delete my ‘Normal template’ in Word because I’d got a lot of formatting in there I didn’t want by accident – and then realised I had just deleted a lot of macros and formatting I DID want … so had to put all that back in again. All in all I spent about five hours doing this work and can only bill the client for about 45 minutes of it!

Then I got home and found a letter from the DVLA – or those of you not in the UK, that’s the folks in charge of driving licences and car tax. ‘Ha, reckon this is a scam’ I said to hubby. ‘It says I’ve got no car insurance!’ I then discovered that the letter the car insurance people had sent me in September saying it was renewal time did NOT say, as I thought it had when I glanced at it, that it would automatically renew if I didn’t contact. In fact it said I had to phone to renew and I’d misread it! So I’ve been insurance-less (which is illegal!) for three months. BUMMER! (I’m a VERY law-abiding penguin as a rule and was quite horrified!)

So with about an hour to go before my Spanish lesson and supper only half cooked I rang the insurance people and asked to renew. Had I renewed in September it would have cost me approximately £190. The quote tonight was approximately £290. (If you wondering who NOT to insure with, it’s Churchill). ‘Come on,’ I said, ‘You can do better than that, surely!’ knowing they can ALWAYS drop the price if you twist their arm … but he couldn’t. Very pleasant chap but ‘I can only tell you what’s coming up on my screen.’ Paid the £290 and said, ‘I do have 14 days cancellation, don’t I? I’m just letting you know, I WILL be cancelling!’ He said he quite understood and that’s how we left it.

So I managed to finish supper as my poor Spanish teacher was also having a bad day and she texted me to say she was running late, which worked for me! We had a long talk in ‘Spanglish’ about insurance companies and how rubbish they are!

Then I went on line to check what deals I could get. Instead of £290, I can get a similar deal with someone else for around £150 – outrageous! And what’s worse, I could get a deal with Churchill for £170! I phoned and told them that and got ‘Sorry, my hands are tied. I can only apologise. There’s nothing we can do as you’ve already had the new policy discounts when you took out the new policy.’ I said they had to be joking – how could the claim there were any discounts on that – and he said sorry again …

Then I checked my poor, ailing post-Christmas bank account and discovered that I couldn’t afford to pay out for another insurance at the moment and THEN cancel the Churchill one and wait for a refund – so I’ve got to wait for some money to transfer from my slightly less ailing work account into my personal account before I make the swap. I will do it in the next couple of days when the money’s cleared. So cross that I didn’t just take the time to go on line in stead of thinking, ‘Just get it done quickly with the one you’ve been with before.’ That’ll larn me!

So all in all I ache, my work day was pants and I’m broke … but like I said at the beginning of the post it could be much worse. Flippers crossed though that from now on it’s going to get much better!

Un próspero año nuevo a todos mis amigos en línea!

A bit of an update – I can’t believe it’s been so long!

October 15, 2014 at 1:35 pm | Posted in arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, Me, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 4 Comments
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I can’t believe I haven’t posted since June. I wish I could say that that’s because I had nothing, RA-wise, to post about, but that wouldn’t be strictly true. In fact throughout June, July and August I probably did have ALMOST nothing to post about, but, although I’ve kept off those dratted antiinflmmatatories, things aren’t quite so hot now.

It’s just little niggly things at the moment – niggly knees mostly, as it always is with me, plus waking up in the night and finding my right-hand index finger is very stiff and very painful. I have a horrible feeling this relates to my increase in crocheting lately, and I’m wondering if I’ll be able to complete my Diploma in Crochet … although thankfully there’s no time limit so if it takes me a week to crochet a 4″ square, so be it!

And talking of crafts, I’ve just been to the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexander Palace – a 3.5 hour journey there, mostly by coach, a 4 hour journey back (due to the coach almost breaking down but managing to limp to our drop-off point in the end!) and a loooong day browsing the exhibitions (so-so), trade stands (fabulous yearly treat for a rural type with few local craft shops!) and enjoying a workshop too (Dorset button making). We went on the Friday and it knocked me FLAT for the rest of the weekend but it was worth it!

I also had my hospital appointment not long ago. To my astonishment it went very well – they called us in individually, so again we didn’t have to line up like ducklings behind the mother-duck nurse, and there was a new rheumy nurse there (well, new to me, and young) who was absolutely delightful – she hasn’t had the soft, caring side knocked out of her by working too long for too little and too many hours at a time … yet. She was very sympathetic and very helpful about the knees, which were playing up at the time, although more from the medical (go on, have them drained, it’s not that bad – hah, like she’d know!) side than the practical ‘help yourself’ side of exercises, cold compresses etc. And thereby lies, in my non-expert opinion, one of the biggest problems with any giant organisation such as the NHS. It’s inevitable that everyone has their own specialties, but they do tend to get siloed. She didn’t offer me physio – but then again … I didn’t ask. In all honesty I didn’t feel I needed it, and perhaps neither did she! I know how to manage the low-level pain now – sometimes I may need reminding, being a dopey penguin, but I do know!

And that lack of ‘joined up thinking’ leads to the next thing – I got a letter recently asking me to ring the surgery to discuss ‘some blood results from the hospital’. Slightly worrying that – especially as it arrived on a Thursday, I didn’t get it until Thursday night and I was off to London on Friday, so couldn’t ring until Monday. Anyway, I rang on Monday. ‘Oh’ says the doc. ‘They want us to check your cholesterol risk.’ And ‘quite right too’ I hear you say. ‘You’re overweight and you should do something about it and they’re right to be vigilant.’ Well, yes, but here’s the thing … the surgery themselves had just checked my cholesterol about three weeks before and established that I was low risk.

If the nurse at the hospital had asked me about it, instead of sending me off for bloods and not even telling me she was checking that, I could have said, ‘They’ve just done that at the surgery. This is my level, I’m apparently low risk.’ Instead, lovely as she was, she wasted the following resources:

  • A blood sucker (aka phlebotomist)
  • The lab doing the work on the cholesterol
  • The hospital secretary
  • The surgery secretary who sent out the letter
  • The GP who had to call me back and discuss what we’d discussed three weeks before

‘Joined up thinking’ is no longer the buzz phrase of the day, and it sadly didn’t work when it was, but a little bit more of it would be a wonderful thing.

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