Split personality

November 21, 2011 at 9:44 am | Posted in arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 5 Comments
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Well more split Penguin really – my right side is ready to take on the world this morning, but my left side just wants to go back to bed with a hot-water-bottle (or perhaps Enormous Cat on hot-water-bottle duty). This is not my usual pattern – usually I have, for instance, a bad knee and a worse knee, or a pair of bad shoulders, but this morning everything on the right is fine but my left hand, elbow, shoulder and knee are all stiff and painful!

I rather suspect that this has as much to do with fibromyalgia than it does with RA, because although the knee and elbow feel joint-related the shoulder is definitely muscular … well, when I say definitely it’s actually hard to be sure I find, but it doesn’t feel like the usual rheumatoid arthritis pain. I’ve had a few problems in the last few days with it, having foolishly swung round to grab something behind me on Saturday and then found myself curled up in a ball on my chair going, ‘Ow, ooops, I really shouldn’t have done that’.* Unbelievably I then did exactly the same thing twice on Sunday! It’s such a dumb thing to do for someone who knows damn well they get problems in neck and shoulders! I blame the fact that they’d felt so good lately that I’ve been less aware of having to be careful … which I suppose is something I really can’t complain about.

Oh well, I have a mountain of work to get through today thanks to the over-enthusiasm of a colleague on Thursday who, forgetting I was on my own for the first half of the week, may have bitten off more work than we can chew, so I’m going to have to let the right side rule!

 

*This is the expurgated version

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.

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!

Giving myself a kick up the …

February 1, 2011 at 10:10 am | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 1 Comment
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I’m feeling a lot better at the moment. Exercise obviously is the cure for or ills! (Well perhaps not, but I think it might have helped a bit! Perhaps it’s browsing books that made me feel better!) Anyway, in spite of feeling better physically I woke up yesterday with a major ‘Monday morning feeling’ and a distinct grump on about the fact that we’d had too really gloomy days over the weekend and yet last Friday and this Monday (when I had to work, of course, or in Friday’s case would have been working if I hadn’t been at home with my head under a pillow trying to shift the latest migraine), we had gloriously sunny, spring days.

Then I decided this was not the positive thinking penguin I wanted to be! So I ‘reframed’ and started to think, ‘Hey, at least I can glance out of the window and see blue sky and the promise of spring, even if I do have to work.’  Then at lunchtime I managed to reframe, ‘Oh heck, we’ve gone a bit quiet at work, will we have enough to keep us going?’  to ‘Ooh, goodie, we’re a bit quiet. I’ve got time to go for a nice walk at lunch time and enjoy the sunshine.’ And I did. I only went up and down the high street, popped into a few charity shops and had a browse (got seriously tempted by a knitting machine, but that’s another story)  but mostly just wandered up and down soaking up the sun (in a well wrapped kind of way, given that it’s still February!) but I felt so much better for it, and so much better for seeing the aconites starting to flower, bright yellow splashes of colour that are definitely the heralds of spring round here! (It was the primroses where I used to live, in Devon, but here it’s the snowdrops and the aconites.) Anyway, I’m feeling much better for it – and hoping that today will bring a bit more sunshine and another chance for a walk … although my fears about lack of work were groundless, as a load more has come in! Even so, I shall jolly well make time for a walk at lunch time!

Migraines again!

January 18, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Posted in Me, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 8 Comments
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Hmm, not feeling quite so fine any more! I had to finish work early yesterday because I woke up with a headache and it just got worse and worse until I finally realised it was a migraine. My migraines usually start with handy visual effects that flag up, ‘Hello! I’m a migraine’ straight away, but of course I was probably asleep at the point where those were happening, so I missed that.) Although it was one sided, it wasn’t that bad when I woke up so I just took paracetamol. It just niggled away all morning, and eventually I thought ‘migraine?’ and took a migraine tablet. by then I suppose it was waaaaaaaaaay too late.

At about three o’clock it was getting really bad – feeling sick, couldn’t see properly out of my right eye, bad pain … definitely time to give up and go home. Fortunately hubby had the day off and was there to get me tucked up in bed with an ice pack, a darkened room and middle-sized cat (who purred so loudly at the unexpected pleasure of an afternoon snuggle that I was very glad my migraines aren’t affected much by noise – only light!)

I felt slightly better by about six and was able to eat some dinner, which made me feel better still, but still completely washed out. I didn’t do anything all evening except watch a bit of telly once the headache had gone.

Still, at least woke up this morning headache free. Just one small problem … they’re painting at work! Aaaaargh – the smell of paint is bringing the headache right back again! Not sure how long I’m going to last this time.

Interestingly I’ve got pains in my right shoulder for the first time in a while, coinciding with a migraine over my right eye. I’m fairly convinced they’re related … but the doctors aren’t!

If there’s anybody out there that gets migraines that they think are related to their RA Pain, I’d love to hear from you!

Throwing thyroid into the mix

June 15, 2010 at 9:10 pm | Posted in Me, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 5 Comments
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I went for monthly MTX blood tests today and remembered to ask if the thyroid results were normal – I’d assumed they were, since no one at the surgery had bothered to contact me. They weren’t.

Having said that, they weren’t all that abnormal either, so what are we doing about it? In their case nothing as yet, in my case getting rather confused …and cold …and tired … and achy … but mostly just confused. Until I went in and asked for the results I thought a thyroid test was just that, one test, one answer – OK, not OK, whatever. But no … it turns out there’s a test for thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) which is produced by the pituitary gland and stimulates thyroxine production from the thyroid gland. Then there’s tests for the two types of hormone the thyroid gland itself produces, thyroxine (T4) and the other one whose name I can’t remember (T3). Counter-intuitively, if you have lots of TSH sloshing about it means your thyroid might be UNDER-active, because you have to produce a lot of TSH to get the thyroid to do anything at all. If you have loads of T3 and/or T4 (produced by the thyroid gland itself) then you obviously have an overactive thyroid as the thyroid is producing loads of the stuff. If you have very little then clearly you have an under-active thyroid.

Symptoms of the latter include feeling cold when it isn’t (box ticked), weight gain or difficulty in losing weight (box ticked), muscle aches (box ticked), abnormal menstrual cycles (oh yeaaaah!), decreased libido (what’s libido again, somebody?), irritability (well … erm … guilty) and memory loss (not sure, can’t remember). However, my levels of T-whatever – not sure if they tested for T3, T4 or both, are in the normal range. My level of TSH though is just outside the normal range – just a smidge too high. As a consequence the docs have decided to wait and see. I can totally understand the logic of this – apparently it does fluctuate and it’s not as if it’s wildly off the scale, so try again in another month and see if it’s still high, and if the levels of T-whatsit have decreased or not.

Really – I can totally understand that – but it’s just sooooo frustrating, as I sit here grumpily shivering, with period pains! (Oh yeah, and a flare just to increase the fun.)

One interesting thing – apparently the most common cause of hypothyroidism (under-active thyroid) is an autoimmune problem. Surprise, surprise!

As to the confusion – I’ve just about got it straight in my head that there are all these tests and roughly what they’re for, but nowhere can I find clear guidance as to what is and isn’t normal range for any of these tests – it seems that for TSH it used to be considered that up to 5.5 was OK, now they reckon about 4.5, or maybe 3.5, or sometimes 2 depending on who you ask, and apparently some authorities in the UK reckon up to 10 is fine! I’m just going to go off and find a nice sandpit to bury my head in for the next month.

I give up!!

June 8, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 2 Comments
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I think that now is the time to admit defeat … talking of which my feet are admitting defeat too, but I’ll come back to that in a minute!

Ever since I was diagnosed with this dratted thing I’ve been trying to see if my RA followed some sort of pattern – diet, stress, tiredness, weather, hormones … and every time I try to keep some sort of log and think I’m getting somewhere, the pattern just falls apart after a while. I think I give up on trying to find out exactly what it is that makes my RA worse – not because I don’t think the patterns are there, but because I think they’re just too complex. I suspect that tiredness AND weather AND stress AND hormones AND diet probably all play a part – but my analytical abilities (or record-keeping abilities for that matter) just don’t stretch to trying to work it all out … especially when I’m feeling ‘carp’ anyway!

It would be really interesting to keep a log of all the different factors every day and try to analyse it – anyone up for the challenge, ’cause I’m not!

On the bright side, I have an outfit (minus shoes of course!) for the wedding of Mr and Mrs Mooseface (aka my brother and his fiancée). This is why my feet have admitted defeat – not that I’m going to give up on shoes (don’t panic Mr and Mrs M, I’m not coming barefoot although that has been suggested!) Just that my friend Debbie and I had a NINE HOUR shopping trip on Saturday (including the drive to Norwich and back, which Debbie did thank gawd!) and my feet have given up as well since then!

We had a terrific time, and a successful outfit hunt, but as my dress has black in it I thought ‘Aha, I probably have some shoes at home that’ll do the job!’ Well y’all know how much I love shoe shopping (not), so I thought that seemed like a cunning plan. Got home, tried on the outfit, showed Hubby (who liked it, thank gawd!) and tried on the shoes. These are pretty un-fancy black sort of court-shoe/pump things that I’ve had for years, with a harmless-seeming one-inch heel. I thought perhaps a shoe-bow in one of the other colours in my dress, or in silver to match the shrug I got to go with it, would smarten them up.

Well – the shoe trying on session was NOT a success. I have one thing to say about it. OOOOOOOOUUUUUUUUCH!!! Actually the heel on them was really ugly, so perhaps it’s for the best! Anyway, looks like it’s flats for me! (OK, that was more than word … I don’t care! I ache! Stop getting at me! Waaaaah!)

So … will have to have a shoe shopping day some time in the near future! Probably not this weekend as am hoping to fit in another hike with Weeny, hunting butterflies and orchids to photograph … at least the feet will be in walking boots for that so I can probably cope, if the weather improves. It’s continuous rain at the moment.

Weddings and wearables

April 15, 2010 at 12:57 pm | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 15 Comments
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I have a wedding to go to in August – I’ve mentioned this once or twice before! – but what am I going to wear when I can’t wear ‘nice’ shoes?

I get the feeling (probably erroneous) from my mum that she and other family members  have been discussing how to make sure Polly doesn’t look too awful for the wedding. <Sigh> Shoe-wise I really can’t wear the ugly contraptions that are my everyday-wear, but I want something deep and wide enough to fit my orthotics, closed-toed so I don’t feel self-concious about the RA side of things and that doesn’t look like this:

Dr. Scholl's - Men's Michael Air-Pillo Gel Velcro Shoes, Wide WidthI’m sure you can see why!

Thanks to my ‘interesting’ body shape it’s a sod to find trousers that fit properly so the obvious trouser-suit option probably isn’t a serious option … although I suppose I could alter it … and anyway, it’s going to be summer, so those kind of shoes are going to look wrong with ANYTHING! And I don’t want to look like this:

(With apologies to LimeGreenSquid for nicking his picture. If you object, let me know and I’ll take it down but it’s just soooo perfect!)

Since methotrexate’s magic weight-loss effect seems to have lasted a mere two weeks, I suspect I won’t be losing a few stone before then and presenting a sylph-like figure either, so all in all I’m a bit fed-up. There’s no pleasure in clothes shopping when you look and feel like this and I’ve never in my life had pleasure from shoe shopping – so while I’m really looking forward to the wedding, the preamble is worrying me slightly.

Pumps or flat Mary-Janes won’t fit the orthotics, but at least they’d be flat. Maybe that’s the way to go and a day without orthotics might not hurt toooo much. (I can see the steam coming out of hubby’s ears when he reads this, but sometimes a gal’s gotta do what a gal’s gotta do!)

Whatever I end up with it has to be flat. I don’t fancy spending the week after the wedding in self-induced vanity-related agony!

Bright ideas anyone?

I’m fed up with being a yo-yo!

March 24, 2010 at 10:46 am | Posted in Me, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 7 Comments
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On the plus side, at least a yo-yo goes up as well as down! I’ve had another mini-flare (fizzle, floret?) since I last posted, which is why I’ve been so quiet lately … well, that and the fact that work has been insanely busy lately. I rather strongly suspect the two are connected!

I have posted before, once or twice:-) on the importance of pacing yourself and a week or so ago I gave a great demonstration of exactly how now to do that! Worked long hours, worked part of the weekend, ignored the warning signs, took paracetamol or rubbed in magic herbal rub stuff and just kept on working … and of course woke up one morning almost unable to get out of bed. I did get out of bed … still had deadlines to meet, but came home early in a LOT of pain.

So, what would a sensible person do at this point? Take some painkillers, go to bed and have a bit of a snooze probably. I thought, ‘Well, I don’t feel well enough to work but I still have all this City and Guilds embroidery stuff I need to do, so I’ll go to bed with some research books for that …’

Eventually I reached a point where I HAD to go to sleep, but was still trying not to as I thought that would mean I wouldn’t sleep at night. I got to the point where I realised that I’d need matchsticks if I was going to keep my eyes open and gave in.

At this point I was still in a LOT of pain but did drift off to sleep … and woke up an hour later feeling fine! I know sleep is important, but that’s a really extreme example! And I did sleep well that night too. I must have been really sleep deprived and not even realised it!

Mind you, waking up with five to ten hot flushes (flashes) per night is not exactly helping on the sleep front.

Still, things are looking up – work is now steady (which means that I’ll be panicking in a week or two that there’s not enough), apart from one odd twingey pain in one knuckle I’m not bad on the RA front … the yo-yo is on the upswing again … and will hopefully sit at the top for a while at least!

Sick, sick, sick …

January 29, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Posted in Me | 13 Comments
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No I’m not actually sick, I’m just sick to death of the way hormones seem to rule my life. Until Wednesday I’d been menstruating pretty much constantly since before Christmas.  By Sunday last I looked and felt like death warmed up, was bursting in to tears at the slightest provocation (or no provocation) and figured it was time I saw the doc. I knew I’d have trouble when she recommended a tablet that messes with the hormones, but heck, what else are you supposed to do stop a continuous period? So I bit the bullet and went on to Norethisterone (synthetic progesterone). I was a good girl – I didn’t even look at the side effects when I started it on Tuesday. I didn’t even look to see it was synthetic progesterone at the time.

Well the good news is it worked like magic – by Wednesday my seemingly never-ending period had stopped, the hot flushes hadn’t come back and I had very few RA symptoms. By yesterday I felt tired but so much better than I had been feeling. Then last night I woke up at two in the morning with a gnawing hunger pang in my belly – I lay in bed fantasising about porridge with tons of Golden Syrup on it! Fortunately Middle-size Cat and Enormous Cat were both firmly on top of me, purring and being cute, so I resisted the temptation as I didn’t want to disturb them. (Note, disturbing hubby didn’t even enter into the equation – awful, aren’t I? Then again, not much does disturb hubby once he’s asleep!) It’ll pass, I thought.

I woke up again at about six-thirty with a really awful gnawing hunger pang in my belly again! Hmm, I thought, this isn’t good. Heck, it’s Friday. Let’s go wild and have some porridge (instead of the usual and rather better for me Bran Flakes). I had some porridge. The hunger pangs didn’t go away. I made my lunch – beef salad. Normally when I’m making my lunch the absolute last thing I want to do there and then, straight after breakfast, is eat it. Today I could have eaten the whole damn lot. (I didn’t, but I could have done.) Tiny and Middle-sized cats were lucky to get their usual rations of my lunch today!

The gnawing hunger pang in my belly has NOT gone away. I ate a mid-morning snack of soya nuts, I had another slightly later morning snack of a few grapes and some dates. I had an apple. (All this before lunch!) Still gnawing hunger pang in my belly.

I had my lunch. Gnawing hunger pang in my belly. I hate to admit this but I then went to the local bakery. I’m not going to admit to what I bought (and ate) but suffice it to say that Mrs Baker would have been quite shocked if she’d known I was off back to the office to eat it all there and then, but that’s what happened. So would hubby, for that matter. He would have rather hoped I might have brought a bun home for him.  (Sorry darling!)

Guess what? Gnawing hunger pang in my belly – still. My helpful friend Weeny’s response was, ‘You’re hungry? So what’s new?’ (She’s renowned for her sympathy skills – her hubby and I tease her regularly about their lack!) The thing is this isn’t just hungry – it’s like a pain, it has to be pandered to; it’s constantly demanding. I can think of nothing but food. I just want to eat everything in sight. I look at my half-cup of cold coffee and picture a big hot chocolate swirling with cream and marshmallows; I look at the snow swirling around outside and think of ice cream; I don’t quite look at ‘the boss’ and think ‘roast beef’ but believe me I’m not that far from it. And to add insult to injury I’m doing a transcription  all about chocolate!! (I kid you not.)

You know what? I don’t think I’ll be taking any more Norethisterone!  I looked at the side effects this morning and sure enough weight gain and appetite change were nestled amongst them. I’ll put up with a constant period, I’ll live with anaemia and fatigue if I have to, but I really can’t cope with any more of this!

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