I’m glad I’ve got the sniffles!

November 2, 2011 at 9:55 am | Posted in arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, Me | 1 Comment
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I have the post flu-jab sniffles, so presumably that means my immune system is going to respond and do its job in creating anti flu antibodies, which will be very handy if we have a flu epidemic this year … provided of course that it’s the ‘right’ flu. I had a slightly sore throat yesterday afternoon, post flu jab, and distinct sniffles this morning, but at least the big red lump on my arm is now a big red pinprick with a small red rash around it, and much less painful.

All more than worth it though if it keeps flu at bay! If the Flu Jab had a Facebook page I’d sign up to be its fan. (Oh lordy, perhaps it does … )

The flu jab comes of age!

November 1, 2011 at 6:05 pm | Posted in Me, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 4 Comments
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I’ve been noticing a few improvements around the whole flu jab situation this year. In the previous few years I have a) struggled to book in for one because the surgery receptionists didn’t know about immunosuppression b) been disgusted at the ‘cattle market’ approach to the flu clinic, which I thought was restricted to our rural Norfolk surgery, but then found, via Helen at Pens and Needles extended to Canada too!

Here’s the way it used to work: You fight to get into the clinic in the first place, get your slot (which if I remember rightly was ‘morning’ or ‘afternoon’) and then turn up to join the queue extending all around the waiting room and out the door. You are told to be ready and waiting with your arm exposed ready for jabbing, even though the surgery is freezing because the door is permanently open due to people standing in the entry waiting for flu jabs. The receptionists ask why you were there if you looked under 70, and are puzzled when you tell them … but let you through anyway.  You have now been singled out in front of hundreds of somewhat elderly people who are now all staring at you and wondering if you’re trying to con the system, so you feel great! You get to the far side of the waiting room eventually and are asked to ‘fill in this form’. The form has nothing to do with the flu jab but asks if you smoke and would like anti-smoking advice. (Apparently doing this meant they could tick a box somewhere and claim extra funding for ‘offering anti-smoking advice!) You get through to a corridor where all the doors of the rooms are open and wander about until someone says ‘in here’. You go in, and with the door still open and other bewildered patients pottering about in the corridor behind you, you’re asked, ‘Why are you having the flu jab?’ You tell them … again. They say, ‘OK’ and jab you, and then follow that up with something like, ‘Oh – hope you aren’t allergic to egg or pregnant – should have asked you first.’ Fortunately I was neither!

Here’s how it is now: You phone up and say you need a flu injection. The receptionist says fine, she’ll book you in. She goes to your record, sees you’re not elderly and says, ‘Why?’ You say, ‘Immunosuppressed.’ She says, ‘That’s fine,’ and books you in. To your astonishment you’re given an actual time, 3:10, not ‘afternoon’. Then later on in the week you find out that some of your friends have already had their jabs at the surgery and they’re doing it like a proper clinic – called up individually, closed doors, proper checking that it’s OK to give you one etc. Wow – you’re impressed!

You go for your regular methotrexate blood test and notice a big poster in the surgery window about, of all things, getting the flu jab if you are immunosuppressed! After a general rheumatology chat, taking bloods and general chitchat the nurse says, ‘Have you had your flu jab yet?’ ‘No,’ you say, ‘ but it’s booked in for next week.’ ‘Would you like it today?’ she says. After picking yourself up off the floor, rubbing your ears and asking her if she could please repeat herself because you thought she’d just offered you the flu jab today, and finding that in fact that is what she said, you say, ‘Yes please.’ After she’s sucked the appropriate amount of blood she goes and gets the flu injection. ‘I don’t know if I can roll this shirt up far enough’ you say. ‘ I wasn’t prepared for this.’ ‘That’s OK,’ says the nurse with a grin, ‘We can do it through the shirt. On second thoughts better not, the needles are so flimsy we’re having trouble just getting them through the skin!’

Aha – you think – I’m back in the land of normality now! Damn, I was enjoying this strange fantasy world where the surgery actually seems to be doing flu jabs in a sensible and logical manner.

But then you find you can roll up your shirt and in fact the needle goes in fine, if somewhat painfully!

‘Right,’ you say, ‘I suppose I’d better go and cancel my appointment for next week at the front desk.’ The nurse smiles and says breezily, ‘Oh no need – with this new database system we’ve got I can do it really easily from here,’ and she does!

Now you might think surely that wasn’t actually that much to ask – you might say, as ‘brother Penguin’ did some time ago, that your surgery has been doing this for years, but when you’ve become conditioned to being in the cattle market scenario for so many years, this just seems incredible, fantastic, too good to be true …but it’s not. It really happened.

Wooohoooooo!

Incredibly the nurse told me that some patients had actually complained ‘We wanted to come to the big flu clinic like last year!’ There’s no pleasing some people!

Acceptance?

October 23, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Posted in arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, Me, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 4 Comments
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I’ve been thinking a lot lately (although writing very little!) about what ‘acceptance’ of RA means, and also about redefining my idea of ‘normal’. I hadn’t managed, and still haven’t managed in fact, to get my thoughts into words, but I think this afternoon I came as close to ‘acceptance’ as perhaps I ever will.

As I was relaxing in the bath (sorry, probably ‘too much information, especially for those that know me!) and letting my thoughts drift along pretty randomly, I started to think about some of my friends and colleagues: one’s still coping with the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake; one’s recently widowed; one’s, to put it bluntly, losing her marbles; one’s spending this weekend picking up the pieces in her house, since large swathes of the downstairs flooring were dug up on Friday to find a leak.

Good grief, I thought – I’m bloody lucky! I have a loving (and all-round fab) husband, a terrific family (especially the nearest and dearest, including the recent addition of Mrs Mooseface), I have great friends, I enjoy my job, I have time (never enough time of course, but some time) to indulge my passions of messing around with textiles, drawing and pottering about in bits of nature, and although one could always be better off financially, the finances aren’t a complete disaster! The interesting point is that at no point during these thoughts floating over the bubbles did I consider, ‘Yes, but I do have this bloody disease to deal with, so perhaps not so lucky after all.’

It’s not as though things are going great with the RA at the moment either. I wake up every morning in pain, although it often clears for the most part within the hour. I go to sleep most nights in pain. I have pain and stiffness during every day. This is perhaps extra frustrating because for around four months between a flare in March and sometime around August, I felt as though I was pretty much fine, almost symptom free, nearly in remission. And yet, in a way, this on-and-off low-grade (for the most part) pain has just become the norm for me. It’s just another thing to put on one side and live with – and yes, I do appreciate I’m lucky that I can put it on one side at the moment, it’s not so bad that it stops me doing all those things I consider myself lucky for, but what interested me was the fact that it was so far into the normal, everyday that I didn’t even give it a thought when considering other people’s problems and drifting into comparing my life to theirs.

I think I might have once ranted that I will never ‘accept’ this disease, and don’t even mention the word ‘embrace’ in the same breath as rheumatoid arthritis, but perhaps this is acceptance, Penguin-style.

The parrots ate ‘em all

September 23, 2011 at 9:03 pm | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 7 Comments
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The eight-year-old sense of humour is as strange and wondrous thing. I remember thinking, ‘Where’s the paracetamol?’ ‘The parrots ate ‘em all’ was absolutely hilarious, back in the day. It’s not quite so funny when you find you’re living on the darned things though, especially when all of a sudden you go to your paracetamol stash and find that the parrots do indeed appear to have eaten them all!

I’m having a bit of a flare (fizzle, flare-ette, floret?) this week – not what I needed the first week back from hols, but heck, it’s not what we need any time, is it? It doesn’t help that I have a slight cold on top of it, so I’m bunged up and headachy too, and I’m definitely having the maximum number of paracetamol allowed every day, which is why, although I tend to buy some every time I’m in a chemist or super market, just in case, I went to my paracetamol stash today and found the cupboard was bare!

They do nothing at all for inflammation and swelling, but I’m already taking everything I can for that side of things and they really DO help with the pain!

Thank goodness I’m the world’s untidiest penguin – and I was able to rummage some up from behind my bedside table, in my handbag, in my lunch bag … and now I come to think of it there might be a couple in my toilet bag! Still, another trip to the chemist is required tomorrow I think! Annoyingly I was there only yesterday but, for the first time in ages, completely forget to buy any paracetamol!

Off to take the bedside table stash and go zzzzz…..

Spinning

June 20, 2011 at 8:35 pm | Posted in fibromyalgia, Me | 2 Comments
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I said in my last post that I’d post about the spinning day, so here we go!

I had a grand day out on Saturday – as previously mentioned a friend and I (and nine other ladies) had a ‘Spinning with a Drop Spindle’ workshop with Alison from yarnscape. Like all speakers for our branch of the Embroiderers Guild, poor Alison had to do a talk on the Friday night AND a workshop all day on Saturday. We work ‘em hard! She turned out to be a fascinating and engaging speaker though, and an excellent tutor.

I discovered the whole concept of archao-linguistics at her talk – something I want to find out more about … if I ever have time. Absolutely fascinating. You can trace a technology such as glass-making or weaving around the world, seeing when it was adopted into different cultures etc., because as it’s adopted, a culture wouldn’t have a word for it so would tend to use the word of the culture or person introducing it to them… so you trace the words and the rest follows from there. Cool!

We all had a great (if frustrating) time at the workshop on Saturday. I think learning spinning is inherently frustrating – there were an awful lot of ‘aaaah’s and ‘urrghs’ early on in the day, even though Alison very wisely started us of gently with plying and unplying ready-made yarns and only moved on to fibres later. I think I know why it’s called a ‘drop spindle now – not because you let it dangle as you spin; rather because the dratted thing keeps dropping! Fortunately the groans were followed by more and more happy noises as people finally found they’d got the hang of it … or in my case ALMOST got the hang of it!

I was quite concerned, given the very changeable but fundamentally damp weather we were having, that my RA would play up and make holding the spindle and yarn and fibre (in hands, knees, mouth and any other available appendage!) Thankfully it didn’t, and neither did my friend’s – she’s the one I’ve mentioned before who also has RA but who I actually met on at a quilting group. However, Alison says we need to practice ten minutes a day if we’re ever going to master this (or words to that effect) and my hands are playing up a bit today, so it’ll be interesting to see if it makes things worse or doesn’t make any difference. One good thing is that the spindle itself (this particular one that Alison provided anyway) is very light, and one of the things we spun was silk, which is of course incredibly light, but even a handful or so of wool isn’t exactly back breaking, so I think it might be fine.

I’m sure if things were REALLY swollen it would be completely hopeless but luckily I tend not to get really swollen; just a bit on the achy side now and then … or in fact now! Off to see what effect spinning has … I hope none!

Yup, twenty minutes of spinning, one dropped spindle and two broken threads (over twisting!) later, I can safely say it’s not hurting! In fact I feel slightly better for it!

Tips on coping with RA

April 10, 2011 at 8:29 am | Posted in arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 3 Comments
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Someone just posted a request on tips for coping with RA on the NRAS Healthunlocked site that I mentioned previously, so I thought I’d ‘cross-post’ mine here, although I’ll add to them a bit because I didn’t want to hog the post on that site!

Not saying all these will work for everyone, it’s just what works for me!

  • Make sure you take all your tabs and don’t be afraid to use pain relief too! You’re not proving anything by struggling through without paracetamol (or whatever). I also have a wax bath for my hands when I need it, a TENS machine and a front-fastening neck brace. Hardly ever have to use any of them but they’re there if I need them! (So long as I remember I have them!)
  • PACE YOURSELF. It’s not good saying, ‘I’m just going to battle through with my usual routine’ because that’ll just make things worse. On the other hand, to stay positive I definitely don’t get into the thought pattern of ‘I mustn’t plan anything in advance, because RA might get in the way.’ Yes, it might, and it often does, but you still have to make plans and have things to look forward to.
  • ACCEPT HELP! – but at the same time make sure to stay independent as much as you can. So for instance I make sure I get referrals to physio when I need them and go and nag the doc if I need to. And make sure I don’t turn away offers of help from good friends and colleagues. But at the same time I won’t just sit about and let people run around after me when I feel fine – tempting though it might be sometimes!
  • TREAT YOUR FRIENDS RIGHT: I don’t think you can’t spend all the time moaning to your friends or they start thinking, ‘Where’s the Penguin I used to know? I don’t like this one!’ On the other hand, a REAL friend will at least listen when things are really bad, offer to help and MEAN it! If they don’t do that, then perhaps they’re not real friends anyway! They expect the same thing in return of course. If they don’t it then you’re not a real friend either!
  • In my case I’m extremely lucky to have a wonderful hubby who, bizarrely, enjoys housework, so that’s one big burden taken away from me! I’d recommend a house-work loving partner to anyone with RA but I guess they’re pretty rare!
  • SLEEP! Really make sure that you get enough sleep if you possibly can, and if you need to then try a herbal or a prescription sleeping thing, because getting enough sleep makes everything else better!
  • I strongly suspect that one could help oneself by being tidy and having a place for everything and everything in its place. This would negate the need to try to kneel down and search under the bed with bad knees, and then find whatever it is isn’t there anyway … However, as I’m the messiest person I know and was doing just that scrabbling under the bed thing only yesterday, I can’t put that in as a personal recommendation really!

Physio on the A-C joint AND the knee – hurrah!

March 21, 2011 at 8:53 pm | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 2 Comments
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Well, I’ve had my physio – both knee and shoulder. Woohoo!  The physio had no problem working on the knee once she had the doctor’s note!

As anticipated, the ultrasound made the knee a bit worse to start with but then much better! I had the ultrasound Friday morning and by Friday pm the knee was already greatly improved. Of course I SLIGHTLY over-did it on Saturday, but when the local needlework shop is tragically closing down but magically having a 40% off everything sale, what’s a girl to do? So then yes, I paid for it on Sunday. Today the knee is fine again though, having had a rest yesterday.

I also had ultrasound on both acromoclavicular joints (joint between collar bone and … well, not sure which bone really, but see below), even though when I saw the physio on Friday neither were that bad. They continued to be pretty OK really until this morning.

OUCH! Today they’ve been really, really painful, and definitely reduced mobility in the left one, although not dramatically. No good trying a wax bath there either, so I’m wired up to my TENS machine at the moment. Stupidly didn’t think to take it into work today. DOH! I must remember to take it in tomorrow … and ignore the strange looks!

Polly Pulls It Off

March 14, 2011 at 9:34 pm | Posted in arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, Me, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 9 Comments
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This perfectly innocent post title, no double entendres  intended, is supposed to set the 1950’s scene for you. Maggie (friend and frequent commenter on this blog) has always said that the town where I live is like stepping back into the 1950s, and generally I reckon this is a pretty good thing. The 1950s is a pretty nice, cosy, friendly place to live; that is until you get hit by … da da da daaaa, 1950’s Doctor Man.

Alas, the knee has continued to flare and I decided, after having a lot of stiffness and pain yesterday, that I really should go back and say a) the steroids worked but they ain’t workin’ no more and b) can you ask the physio to have a look at the knee please? So I did. Of course, as I’ve mentioned before, if you make a ‘same day appointment’ (and the choice is same day or 2.5 weeks away if you’re lucky) then you can’t choose your doctor; you just see whoever is available.

Now when I did this two weeks ago I hit the jackpot with Dr Locum Eye-Candy, but alas, this week my luck ran out and I got 1950s Doctor Man. Now don’t get me wrong, he was pleasant enough in a dried-up old stick kind of a way, and true to his 1950s roots he did listen patiently and he did actually bother to examine me properly (two things you certainly can’t count on these days in the NHS!), but then the downside of being in the 1950s kicked in, and I got the 1950s lecture about RA. I thought things had come on a lot since this kind of thing: ‘Well, that’s the nature of the disease. It’s a progressive disease I’m afraid and it will flare now and then. Now, I’m not trying to depress you but really that’s just the way it is and there’s not a lot you can do about it. You’re on a high level of methotrexate and other medication already, so … ’ And so on, and so on, for about five minutes.

I’m not actually saying he’s entirely wrong, by the way – fundamentally that’s probably true, but he didn’t make one single suggestion about sensible things I could do. OK, I wasn’t expecting him to suggest Reiki or a gluten-free diet or anything else that your average 2011 British GP would consider a bit ‘far out’, but what about, for example: exercise … or rest, apply heat … or cold, consider a steroid injection in the joint, come back if it gets worse, have physio, get hubby to do all the cooking, washing up, shopping etc. for the next few weeks. <Grin – of course he wouldn’t suggest that! Not the done thing at all in the 1950 to have a man doing all that!>

I must admit I wasn’t feeling very ‘with it’ and I damn near forgot to actually ask what I’d gone in to ask, which was since I was doing a 50 minute round trip every week for ultrasound treatment on my shoulder at the moment with the physio,  could he please ask the physio to treat the knee too? Finally I did remember, and, give him his due, he agreed immediately and not only that but he actually wrote me a note (with his very smart 1950′s fountain pen) to take in with me, hopefully circumventing the need to wait five weeks for the next official appointment for a knee referral, by which time the flare will probably be over.

I did also ask him whether I should be exercising it or resting it, and he said definitely resting it … but is this right, I wonder, or is this just more 1950s medicine. Not that long ago the only recommendation for RA was ‘bed rest’!

The knee bone’s not connected to the shoulder bone

March 12, 2011 at 9:37 am | Posted in arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 5 Comments
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I posted a while ago about how the physios at the hospital ‘in line with the private sector’ were limiting appointments now, and generally becoming officially less flexible and less helpful. Well I had further proof of how in line with the private sector they aren’t on my last visit.

When I previously went for physio I had been referred for my shoulder, but when the knee flared up, knowing it was all RA, she did some work on the knee too. Now, and this is no way the fault of my physio herself I should add, it’s a typical NHS ‘powers that be’ decision, even though I couldn’t bend or straighten my knee fully, had been to the GP, had got oral prednisiolone and had had it confirmed that my knee was flaring, she couldn’t do any ultrasound on my knee at all. Because it was too inflamed? Nope. Because she wasn’t sure it was the right treatment? Nope. Because I had been referred only for my shoulder!

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!

Fortunately the knee is actually very nicely on the mend by itself, and equally fortunately the ultrasound on the shoulder (actually the acromoclavicular joint, but I can’t keep spelling that!) has helped enormously, so not THAT much to whinge about. Also I have a cunning strategy up my sleeve if the knee doesn’t mend fast enough or gets worse again. I don’t know if it’ll work but my cunning plan is to phone the GP, explain the situation and get them to give me the referral letter, so that I can walk into the physio next time and say, ‘Here’s the letter – can you do my knee now please?’

Otherwise it’ll be the usual ‘five weeks from referral’ and I’ll be going in for six sessions for my shoulder, which will be over before the referral for the knee is officially through. This is not only a problem because if the knee needs doing it needs doing a.s.a.p; it’s also an issue because it’s 50 mins to an hour driving time to and from the hospital IN WORK TIME! So glad the NHS are working towards keeping everyone in work! HAH!

To physio or not to physio

March 4, 2011 at 11:04 am | Posted in arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, Me, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 3 Comments
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Well … half-an-hour’s drive, ten minutes or so waiting, thirty minute consultation … and the answer turned out to be, for the moment anyway, not to physio! Aaaaaaargh! I’ve only waited since January for this appointment. Still, there were perfectly sound reasons not to physio – and at least I had a fun time in the waiting room reading old copies of National Geographic!

There was one small thing I hadn’t accounted for … I’ve just started a (very) short course of oral steroids for a very swollen knee, and the physio that works for me, or has always worked for me in the past, is ultrasound. Obviously the steroids are busy trying to reduce the inflammation, and equally obviously that is intention of most treatments including the ultrasound. Aye, but there’s the rub … (talking or rubs I must rub some of that nice ‘Nature’s Kiss’ ointment into my knee … I keep forgetting about that … but back to the main point), the way that ultrasound works (putting it simply, which is the only way I know!) is that it apparently INCREASES the inflammation quite rapidly in order to trigger the body to go ‘ooh, that’s inflamed’ and kick into place a process for doing something about it.

So … if I had ultrasound, my physio basically thought that I might well be either inadvertently cancelling some of the steroid effects or, at very least, wasting my time because the steroids might counteract the ultrasound without it being able to do anything.

Now the physio wasn’t at all sure about this, and neither am I, but we decided it was better not to risk it so I’ve got to go back again on Tuesday morning!

The more I think about it the more I’m not convinced by this whole argument … but I’m way too tired to work out why now, so I’m off to bed and I’ll give it some thought tomorrow!

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