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Category Archives: Symptoms

Avoidance

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I haven’t been writing. Not here, and not at all. If/when I write about something it makes it more real to me. However I set out with the intention of full transparency when I started RA Supergirl years ago. So let’s get honest, things have been bad. I was in a fender bender over the summer and it kicked my RA up in a really weird way. Then I started the most difficult semester I will ever be in. People in my program tend to average 3-6 hours of sleep and are under immense stress. This has only made things worse on my end. I am failing a class despite making Dean’s List last semester. I’m so tired and my pain level so high that I can’t focus on my assignments. There are times when I become so anxious that I want to curl up under my desk and stay there. I’ve started to develop rheumatoid nodules on my hands, this indicates things may be worse than we thought. I feel like a failure as a wife, I have been too sick to grocery shop for 2 weeks [thank god for Blueapron]. I just started a month-long Prednisone treatment in an attempt to arrest what is going on.

All that aside there have been some positive developments in my world as well. I have an interview for an excellent opportunity in urban education next week. I finally went off the thyroid medication that was making me sick [more on that later]. My crazy supportive husband has been doing his best to help me despite being in grad student hell a the moment. Rosh Hashanah is just around the corner along with the other high holidays, I’m really excited for that. Finally, I started a job as an entomology lab technician, I really enjoy it! As a whole I’m trying to look at what could be rather than what currently is.

I’m sorry this was not an inspirational post, but it was an honest one.

 

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Hormones Gone Wild

Morticia

Today I met with a hormone specialist due to a suggestion from my mother. She told me she had low thyroid and it was likely genetic and urged me to pay a visit to her doctor, good call mom. After some blood tests and thyroid tests it was determined that I have incredibly low thyroid and the metabolism of an elderly sloth. This explains why I can’t seem to lose weight no matter what I do and why I have such bad fatigue even when my fibromyalgia is under control. I start taking adrenal support supplements, iodine treatments, and thyroid medication this next week and anticipate positive change. They told me I may feel better immediately or it could take several months, I am hoping for the former. They also told me my difficult periods and fibrous breast tissue is related to most of my hormones being out of whack and even explain my nausea and vomiting! As a result of this information I am thinking I will postpone my endoscopy for a few months and see if this helps the nausea. Something that was interesting was that my blood results mimicked those of someone with Hashimoto’s which is an autoimmune thyroid disease. I say mimicked because the doctor felt the high inflammation and white count were results of the RA/RD and sjogren’s. So that was interesting, he wants to keep an eye on it to ensure I do not actually have Hashimoto’s. In short I’m very glad I listened to my mother and look forward to feeling more like a functional person.

Actemra and Spines

whoop ass

Good News! As of a month ago my rheumatologist told me I’m in the best shape she has ever seen me! We also decided it was finally time to begin treatment for the chronic dry mouth my Sjogren’s has caused. I started Evoxac roughly a month ago and it has been FANTASTIC! I had no idea that it was possible to eat without food getting stuck in my throat or to talk without my mouth being so dry it clicked. My insurance covers most of the generic so I am most excited. The Actemra has continued to help massively without needing to increase the dose. I am now experiencing significantly less side effects; my mouth sores are considerably less severe, the fatigue is no longer crippling, my kidney’s stopped getting infections, and it no longer gives me a headache. Apparently it is surprisingly common for Actemra to cause some not-so-fun side effects right off the bat but tends to become more mild over time.

Spines, we need them. Much of my life I have had back pain for one reason or another, be it sports, rheumatoid disease, car accidents, or simply sleeping wrong. My spine has become hypermobile in some places and hypomobile in others. Essentially that means that certain vertebrae tend to get pulled out of alignment and others refuse to move at all. Since I my RA/RD is suddenly under control I have been able to identify this problem which has likely been going on for a reasonably long time. I started attending physical therapy for the 9th time last week. I cannot speak highly enough of my new PT! Both him and the student he is teaching are incredibly knowledgable about the joint complications that RA/RD, fibromyalgia, and my various surgeries. They have designed a special care program for me that is working around my cervical vertebrae as the ligaments are at risk due to the RA/RD [the most dangerous/lethal part of RA/RD]. I will be in PT for 2 weeks and then evaluated for change, should I not improve in this time I will be sent to a back specialist due to concerns of long term damage.

The one thing that is giving me a tough time currently is the liver spasms that continue to cause pain, nausea, and vomiting. I  am waiting to see my GI in 2 weeks to find out what/why this is happening. I no longer have a gallbladder so it can’t be that at least.

Overall this has been a month of good news health wise and I am very hopeful.

Oral Fixation

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Similarly to how smokers crave oral stimulation long after they quit individuals who have used oral pain medication for long periods of time have the same issue. Some take up smoking, drinking copious amounts of soda, or eating when in pain. This is when an oral fixation becomes a ‘pain behavior’. For those of you who are not familiar with the phrase, a ‘pain behavior’ is an act that an individual partakes in when chronic pain is flaring up. It can be anything from rubbing the site of pain to compulsively eating. I am one of the lucky ones who has manifested with compulsively eating when in pain. In part it is because of my brain thinking, “Oh you want pain medication, what else can you consume instead? FOOD!” This has caused me to gain a decent amount of weight since Mayo PRC, an issue that I continue to want to address yet continuously fail to. This is in part because I feel that if I didn’t have this pain behavior that I would easily get sucked back into the constant pain medication cycle. I mention this because so few people talk about this aspect of chronic illness, I only know a handful of other people in similar positions to mine. In the not too distant future I hope to get a better handle on the ‘food as a pain behavior’ thing. If anyone has had any similar struggles I am more than happy to receive advice on the issue.

Bed Rest: Week 2

8flkNgqThis week I got my splint removed and got to see my foot! The incisions are significantly larger than I anticipated but are healing nicely. They removed half my stitches yesterday and will remove the remaining ones in 2 weeks. The doctor was impressed with my lack of pain meds [I’ve been off them for a week now] along with my limited range of motion. Apparently my toe wiggle is pretty impressive, it would appear they thought that wouldn’t happen for another week or so. Despite being a fall risk they went ahead and put me in a boot rather than a cast so I could shower more easily. I’m trying to adjust to having a giant boot on my leg while sleeping, not to mention how freaking heavy it is. My fantastic husband wins all the awards for putting up with me and taking care of me.

Muscle atrophy, what is it? This past week we have learned that my calf has turned into a gelatinous blob. I expected some atrophy in my leg but not so severe or quickly. I am less than halfway through my recovery so building the muscle back up is going to be an interesting adventure. I won’t be walking for 3 more weeks so I suspect this will get much worse before it gets better.

The storm systems that came through kicked my untreated RA/RD into high gear and caused a system failure resulting in a random couch nap on christmas. I am so very excited to start my IV in 2 weeks.

I am officially becoming stir crazy and feel like a shut in. I did get some excellent coloring books, a dinosaur building kit, and some books to help distract me.

I’m really good at this game

teslaSo in keeping with the general theme of “why not” my rheumatologist and I suspect that my RA may in fact be active again. There is a possibility that this is a temporary flare up but my lack of response to the doubled dosage of my NSAID [Celebrex] is concerning. We believe this could have been triggered either by my increased use of my hands due to my ASL class or my increased stress level [I forgot what being a full-time student was like]. Regardless of the cause we will just need to keep an eye on it, my rheumatologist has assured me that Methotrexate is not in my future if she can help it, and I have decided that regardless of severity I will not be going back on pain medications.

Additionally should my RA be active again it would not be considered uncommon, below I’ve included the link to a study regarding the rate of remission in RA patients. most notably it states, “Long-term ARA [American Rheumatism Association]defined remission was rare, constituting 7% of follow-up for the entire cohort. For those 20% achieving remission, this period represented 34% of their follow-up. A total of 56% had a relapsing-remitting disease pattern and 44% had a persistent disease pattern.” Additionally this study states that the average length of remission is roughly 20.5 months. Bearing this in mind statistically my chances of remaining in remission are slim, but we knew this from the get go. Regardless of whether my RA is active or this is a blip I will continue to attend school full-time and fully intend to graduate on time and continue to pursue ASL for as long as I can.

http://rheumatology.oxfordjournals.org/content/37/12/1324

Boom Boom Pow

i failed my wayLadies and gentlemen we have a winner! And may I say about damn time. As soon as they upped my Lyrica dose the “Hamster ball full of stalactites and lava” that I have been dealing with daily finally lost it’s bite. That is to say there is no more burning pain [which is a MUCH bigger deal than the average bear realizes] and the stabbing went from a firm shanking to an unplesant finger poking, progress. In all seriousness though the 100mg 2x a day in combination with my Tramadol, Orencia, Tizanidine, Amitriptyline, etc… has made a huge difference and I am feeling like I can function better now. Additionally I AM BACK OFF OF VICODIN! I haven’t had progress this rapid since they put me on Lyrica in the first place, though to be fair the weather has significantly improved as well. Even if this progress is just a small step in the right direction it’s still progress. On the down side it has made me a bit drowsy but I’ve been powering through like a complete and total boss.

Mayo clinic should be contacting me in a few weeks regarding scheduling my 3 week pain treatment program. On one hand I am so very excited that there is somewhere that hasn’t given up on me and just said ‘you’re trapped, sorry about you’ [looking at you cruddy ER doc] on the other I am not looking forward to 3 weeks in a Microtel by myself, a full week was tough last time. I’m hoping that a couple people can come visit me the first 2 weekends but we shall see. On the upside I get to eat at “Mac’s” which is a fabulous restaurant right outside the Gonda building at Mayo. Let’s be honest food is usually the upside to most situations.

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