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!

Knee flare

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

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

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

‘What can I do for you?’

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

‘Oh?’ <slightly sceptical voice>

<Pause>

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

<pause>

‘oh, right, yes, of course …’

Oh good, he’s finally read some notes!

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

‘You give me a prednisolone taper.’

‘Ah, when did you last have one?’

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

‘i can’t find it on the system.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You know you’re stupidly busy when …

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

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

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

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

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

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!

It’s not just chronic disease – it’s just that we have to put up with it more often!

March 24, 2015 at 11:49 am | Posted in arthrits, arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, Me | 1 Comment
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I was chatting in the kitchen at work today with a lass who works in the same building. She had an accident at the weekend and is hobbling around on crutches. As an active, sporty person she’s feeling very frustrated – who wouldn’t be – but I was slightly amused (in a sympathetic way of course) at her frustration with losing her independence. I offered to carry her coffee down the corridor for her and she said no, she’d manage. ‘I hate being a burden’ she said, ‘I’m normally such an independent person and everyone’s being so kind and helpful and I’m having to rely on lifts and things for everything, and of course I’m grateful but  I HATE IT!’ I do so know the feeling – although I’m incredibly lucky with my RA that it comes and goes so must of the time I can remain independent, but when I can’t that continuous feeling of pressure (entirely internal, not from the people around me) to show gratitude, and that feeling of being a burden is just horrible! I don’t think I can explain that feeling to anyone who hasn’t experienced it – but I know many of you reading this will have experienced it too!

Then she said, ‘And everyone’s got an opinion! “Oh, you’ll have to stop doing that now this has happened” and “If you’d been wearing stronger body protection …” and “You shouldn’t have gone out on a day like that” and “If only you’d thought to do this first …”‘ In fact it was one of those unavoidable things – an ‘act of god’ if you like – something spooked her horse and she came off it. It happens. She wears body protection, she was in a lesson and it wasn’t that bad a day or the teacher (and she herself) would have cancelled. But yes, everybody has an opinion!

‘Oh, eat a spoonful of honey a day and your arthritis will disappear’ – ‘Oh, if you lost  weight you’d have no arthritis problems’ – ‘Oh, my mother took a whisky every night and lived till she was 122 without any arthritis symptoms, maybe you should try that’ … Doesn’t that sound familiar? The being a burden thing and the everyone has an opinion thing are two things that I think bloggers on RA and chronic disease blog out rather frequently, but it turns out it’s not just ‘us’.

But at least horse lady will get a full recovery (or I certainly hope so) and no doubt ‘look back on this and laugh’ whereas we folk with chronic disease are a bit more stuck with it! Nevertheless, in true Pollyanna fashion, I’m still grateful (and without that burdensome feeling!) for the fact that my disease is mild and for all the things I can still do … and now I can add to that the fact that I’m very unlikely to be thrown off a spooked horse anytime soon, since I’m very unlikely to be on one!

 

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