Wednesday, May 29, 2013

News from the Arthritis War Front

Lupus, ruled out. Gout and pseudo-gout, also nixed.

My official diagnosis, as of this morning, is rheumatoid arthritis. So begins the newest fight in my life.

While I was awaiting the test results, my moods have consisted mostly of anger and frustration. I don't have time for this s---! I'm a caregiver, family member, therapist, friend, lover, and overall eager explorer of life, with all its myriad, delightful aspects. This arthritis B.S. was not part of the plan!

When I first suspected what was going on, I recalled my late paternal grandmother. Shortly after we moved here to California in 1964, she began to complain--loudly, bitterly, and without end--about her "ar-thur-ITE-issss." Grandmother C. was not a happy person; right after we settled here, she promptly decided she hated California and "all the crazy Californians." She isolated herself, and rebuffed any attempts of others to reach out to her socially. Mostly, I remember Grandmother sitting in the living room for hours at a time, bemoaning her loneliness--and taking massive amounts of aspirin. Her "ar-thur-ITE-issss," by the way, was never confirmed by any doctor. She rarely went to a doctor more than once, especially if a diagnosis was not to her liking.

I am not going to be another Grandmother Cook.

No, dammit, I'm waging a massive counter-offensive. My primary doctor was positive in his presentation, saying that treatments are continuing to be more effective in cases like mine. As startlingly rapid as the onset has been, I'd like to think managing arthritis early on will have its advantages. As soon as I got back to my car, I called and made the appointment with the rheumatologist. The earliest I can get in is June 26, but in the meantime, I'll take my Mobic and keep reading up on the Arthritis Foundation's website. They've got a wealth of information on diet, exercise, and other everyday strategies for maximizing mobility and minimizing pain.

Writing and typing are do-able right now. I've already become skilled at grasping a pen while allowing my right index "sausage" finger to stick straight out. I've found a way to support my wrists when I'm on my keyboard. A friend uses the Dragon Naturally Speaking Home computer program. I've been fascinated with observing her using it, and now it may be time I got on board with it.

Other things are going to call for adaptation -- the opening and closing of plastic bags is pretty tricky, as are hooks on clothing and jewelry. Moving a casserole dish calls for creativity when my left hand doesn't want to mind me. If it's not a hot dish, I use my right hand and balance the casserole on my left forearm, but there must be a better way. The manual can opener will have to go in favor of an electric one. Turning pages, texting, and counting coins in front of an impatient cashier are also interesting tasks. So many things to think of that I used to take for granted!

And then...there's taking care of Mom. I'm so grateful for Esmeralda, who has stepped into her role with such cheer, reliability, and professionalism. Sometimes, though, when Esmeralda isn't here, I have to take over the tasks. Changing clothing, diapers, and bedsheets were a snap a mere month ago. Now it's a painful scenario for both Mom and me. I try not to wince or groan, but I'm not always successful at hiding my discomfort. Mom, in turn, feels bad, and wonders out loud if she can "do anything" for me.

With regard to my dear gentleman friend, I feel so remorseful when I snap at him, too. Needless to say, pain isn't the best mood enhancer. So far, he's patient and understanding. Suddenly, I have a glimmer of empathy for "grumpy old people," including my grandmother.

Still, I'm very hopeful. I've got the Arthritis Foundation website,, bookmarked, and try to become as educated as I can about this disease. On my immediate to-do list is their Walk with Ease program. Not only do I want maintain my mobility, but there's the embarrassing reality of how much I currently weigh (No! I'm not going to confess it--here or anywhere else online. It's a secret among my healthcare professionals and me.).

As a proactive step toward comfort, I got myself a left wrist brace while at the pharmacy today. Allow me to show it to you. It takes getting used to, but my wrist already feels better with the support.

The AF estimates 50,000,000 of us adult Americans and 300,000 children deal with arthritis. If you can, look at the video entitled, "Faces of Arthritis." I'm glad to join this fight, because there are so many of us on the same side.
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