Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness Week
It’s Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) awareness week so this seems like a good point to post here about what has been going on with me as well as raising awareness about the disease.
I started showing symptoms about a year ago. It started with pain in my feet in the mornings and fairly quickly spread to my hands then onto other joints including my shoulder, jaw and wrists. As with anything new like this I dismissed the early symptoms and decided maybe I was just getting gold – I was nearly 40 after all. Within a few weeks the pain in my hands and feet were too much to ignore, I was having trouble walking, driving and writing/typing so I headed off to the GP who shrugged at me and didn’t think there was much wrong. A couple of visits later (to a different GP) and it was actually one of the practice nurse specialists who took me seriously and referred me to the Rheumatologist at the hospital. I was also given some steroids to see if they would help in the meantime. The steroids were great but a short term solution.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosis
I first saw the consultant in July but the steroids had cleared up most of the swelling and my bloods were not showing any sign of inflammation so we had to wait for the steroids to wear off – which they certainly did pretty quickly once I stopped taking them. Within a few weeks I was back to swollen joints and pain, trouble sleeping, getting dressed and normal day to day tasks. This time when I saw the consultant there was little doubt. Blood tests showed raised inflammation and he couldn’t deny the swelling in my fingers and feet. I quickly started on methotrexate, a drug widely used for treating Rheumatoid Arthritis. It comes with its own nasty side effects and the need for regular blood tests to make sure it isn’t doing more harm than good. The drugs, along with a healthy dose of steroids to get the swelling under control until the drugs kicked in, fairly quickly had me back to feeling almost normal. I could sleep and dress myself which made all the difference.
Since diagnosis I have mostly been OK. There are some nasty side effects from the methotrexate which makes me feel pretty sick for 24 hours after taking it and random days which a joint swells or is painful. Thankfully these bouts tend to last for 24-48 hours and then settle back down again. My hands and feet are sore all of the time but I can make do with that if there are no other symptoms. I have regular appointments with my consultant along with instant access via skype if I need to (I haven’t had to yet).
Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis
So, in light of everything I feel fairly lucky that I’m doing OK. I have carried on with work. I’ve managed to complete the first module of the masters that I signed up for just before all this started. However, I’m also aware that this is the beginning of quite a long road into the unknown. My plan is to not let Rheumatoid Arthritis control what I do and find ways to control the symptoms and work alongside them to carry on as normally as possible.
Of course Alan and Morgan have been fantastic support – it can’t have been easy for them to see me struggling in pain with simple day to day things but they put up with me and help with so much I can’t mention it all here. Hopefully we can move back to more normality now but at the same time raise a little bit of awareness that there are people out there with problems you can’t see or know about. Understand that they are doing their best to carry on as normal as best they can (even if this is a bit slower or more clumsily than they used to).