Beginning with the first symptoms of my rheumatoid arthritis (RA), I have lived in daily pain. It has been over four years. It has been a long time.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. My body is on a suicide mission to destroy the linings of the movable joints in my body. It is a scary disease in that it is unpredictable and it is progressive. I spent the first two years with severe fatigue/malaise. And it was as bad as the pain. This malaise is caused by cytokines, products of inflammation. Cytokines circulate in my bloodstream spreading RA damage. Add that to a high level of pain and it can be overwhelming. I wake to stiff, painful joints. In the morning as I walk painfully down to the kitchen to make coffee, there are times when I have become angry and tired of it all. I start the day in pain and I end the day in pain. It is too much.
My feet are becoming deformed and I find it difficult to walk even with custom inserts and well designed shoes. Lately, my left hip has been in excruciating pain. Bending. Standing from sitting. Weight bearing. Turning in bed. It was unbearable. During a flare it feels like it is going to last forever. It usually improves. Medrol helps me a lot. Fortunately for me I have excellent bone density.
My mother told me more than one time that,” This is the way it is.” I had often thought that this expression was cruel. I believed that it never must be a certain way. It can be different. I see that she was right. Sometimes that is the way it is. RA is a reality to be lived with daily.
Inflammation is an important word in RA. Joints become inflamed. Frequently the small joints of the hands and the feet are affected first. My feet were affected first. Then my knuckles and wrists. There was a time when I could not open jars or bottles. My elbows were affected and my shoulders were severe.
RA affects both sides of the body. Frequently, many joints are affected. It is so different than osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis (OA) is called the wear and tear arthritis. OA is not a symmetrical or a systemic disease. It can be painful, too. But it is not systemic and it will not cause your heart to fail or your lungs to be damaged like RA does.
This is afternoon for me. I sit in my living room looking out at my rose bushes. My elderberry tree is covered in white flowers behind the roses. Next are the Sandias. Lovely to see. For me it is important to keep the good things in the forefront of my mind. There is much that I enjoy every day. Yet once in a while I slip momentarily. I become angry. I become frustrated. And then I realize that this is the way it is and I pull out my coping skills and I carry on.