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.

The bit at the end of a flare that I always forget about!

January 22, 2016 at 9:45 am | Posted in arthrits, arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | Leave a comment
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Yay – the swelling has pretty much all gone and so has the inflammation – I have pretty much full ‘bendability’ back in my left knee – woohoo … but yes, I’m still being careful! Of course if you have an injury, swelling and inflammation happens for a reason – to take more blood to the area to repair the injury, and to stop you moving it in ways that are going to cause the injury to worsen. Now in RA, given that it’s those helpful wee blood-cells that are actually doing the attacking and causing the injury, it kind of confuses things a bit, but nevertheless the swelling DOES stop you moving the joint in ways that are likely to cause more injury … and when the swelling’s gone, so is that warning and protecting system. And one thing hasn’t gone yet … the pain! Luckily the pain isn’t there all the time for me, which is great – I’m very, VERY glad about that – but it does mean that while I’m sitting at my desk pain-free and want to leap up and get a cup of coffee, it’s rather important to remember not to leap unless I want to end up an embarrassing heap on the floor!

Injecting methotrexate

January 19, 2016 at 9:20 am | Posted in arthrits, Me, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 17 Comments
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Hmm, how many times have I read posts about self-injecting drugs and breathed a sigh of relief that I don’t have to do that? Too many to count. Well, that time has ended, my friends – I will be injecting my MTX in three weeks’ time, after my ‘education appointment’ with the hospital. Mind you, I gather from a small amount of on-line research that this is a very easy subcutaneous (under the skin) injection; not the sort of nasty intra-muscular injection that biologics users have to endure. It seems to be a simple (?!) question of using something like an epi-pen to squirt the MTX in with, but I will find out more when I go and get educated. Here’s hoping I get the sweet nurse I’ve been speaking to on the (yes, actually helpful) helpline, and not the bored and horrid nurse I’ve never liked from day one. We shall see. Either way I will endeavour to be a good girl, listen hard, take it all in and get it right first time. (Not getting it right first time could be messy!)

The reason I’m moving to this course is that I sometimes get stomach problems that may or may not be from the MTX and that many people who take the dose orally don’t get the full benefit as some of it is digested, rather than moving on to the bits it needs to go to in order to work. By injecting, I can keep to the same dose, rather than increasing and risking the side effects that go with that, but hopefully get more benefit from the dose as all of it will go straight to where it’s supposed to go. That’s the theory, anyway. Apparently there are no other advantages or disadvantages of injecting – other than the obvious mild unpleasantness I’m assuming for the injecting!

 

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.

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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!

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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!)

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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.

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!

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!

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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!

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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.

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