Sunday, February 28, 2016

RA and ABP.

my name is adrienne. and I have rheumatoid arthritis. 

over the last 8 months I've been struggling with constant pain in most of my joints. In hindsight, I've made the slow progression through levels of pain for the last 18 months, but the intensity peaked in August of 2015. The pain started in my pinkies in the fall/winter of 2014. At first I thought it was from constant txting (could be), and then I thought it was because of the constant cold (probably). The pain would come on early in the morning and late in the evening, so it wasn't enough to notice... in the beginning.

as the months progressed, and the weather warmed, my joint pain gradually increased. I was running around constantly with work, traveling with friends, and training for another half marathon. Again, I contributed the pinky pain to txting and being on the go. But then I started having pain in my toes. Somewhat naively, I thought I kept spraining my big toes in yoga (which I've totally done, multiple times). I thought my other toes ached from the 30-40mile training I was doing weekly. It didn't faze me for a while.

that was until the swelling set in. Towards the end of July and early part of August, my hands had ballooned. My finger pain had spread to all of my digitals, and the pain in my toes spread to my feet and ankles. But the swelling was the worst. My size 8.5 Asics were so tight that my circulation was being cut off. It too was painful to type on the key board. I couldn't wear any rings or watches. Opening jars and turning round door handles was almost impossible. Dicing and mincing veggies and herbs was out of the question. I broke 3 glasses in one week.

the pain, swelling, and inability to manage simple daily tasks wasn't what brought me into the doctor's office. It was my asthma. I was diagnosed with asthma when I was 14; up until that point I had had 5 years of controlled asthma under my belt, with the latter 2 living without the need for a daily corticosteroidal inhaler. All of a sudden, though, I couldn't breath. I was waking myself up wheezing and coughing every night, and couldn't run a half mile without needing my rescue inhaler. So straight to the pulmonologist I went. After explaining my breathing issues, and the physical exam, my physician asked me if I had any other aches and pains that needed to be addressed. I told him about my joint pain and swelling, and he ordered some blood work. Thank goodness he did.

about 5 days later, my doctor calls. He said my rheumatoid factor was double what it should be... for a 50 year old. He sent off my labs to my GP, who referred me to a rheumatologist.

after seeing the rheumatologist, and doing more blood work and x-rays, I finally had a concrete diagnosis. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA for short). As soon as I was diagnosed, I was immediately started on RA protocol.

having a tangible, albeit unexpected, diagnosis to my months pain made me feel exponentially better. But I'd be lying to say I'm alright.

it sucks. It really sucks. Having RA at 25 years old, is almost soul crushing. I haven't been able to do so many of the things I love to do: run, bike, practice yoga, knit, ski, blog. These things that I love, my favorite things, make up so much of who I am. Not being able to do them has made me feel like I've lost so much of my identity. All because of this disease. I never know how I will feel, day to day. On my best days, I have deep but dampened pain in my fingers and toes. On my worst days, getting out of bed is too much.

seeing the glass half full is a constant struggle. RA is not a death sentence; it is not cancer, it is not paralyzing, it is not world-ending but... Being optimistic sometimes feels impossible. I'm my toughest critic and my biggest hater, so staying positive is a constant battle between my self, my reality, and acknowledging any silver lining.

the struggle has been real.

but there are so many things to be grateful and thankful for. 

first, my friends. They have let me whine, cry, scream, and yell my frustrations about my situation and diagnosis way past being blue in the face. They have called me from Florida, txted me from Chicago, wrote me from New Jersey, and visited me from down the street. They've made the time and effort to reach out and make sure I'm okay. I've said it before, but I have the best friends in the world. And for that, I'm thankful.

second, my coworkers. When you work in the medical field, your job is to take care of your patients. Never did I expect to be taken care of by my coworkers. Every day the techs, nurses, clinicians, and physicians check in on me to see how I'm doing. They always ask how I'm feeling, if I need help, and how they can help. If I can't lift a patient on my own, they're always there to help bear the weight. If I'm exhausted and feeling down, they're always there with a cup of tea and encouraging words. Having such a loving and caring work family makes all the difference when you're aching to the core. And for that, I'm grateful. 

third, and most importantly, my family. The amount of work my parents have put in to finding answers, accommodating, and encouraging me is insurmountable. They help in any and all ways they can; driving me to doctors appointments, making my bed in the morning, packing lunches, bringing me water to take my meds, giving me a little bit of extra love when I need it. Being a parent is the hardest job in the entire world, so the fact that they have gone over and beyond their basic duties is something I will forever be indebted to them for. And for that, I'm thankful.

the last year has been one of the hardest of my life. It has been full of pain, frustration, and questioning. It's bent my faith, and dulled my self-esteem.

but it hasn't broken me. I am far from broken.

my experience with rheumatoid arthritis has changed me. 

rheumatoid arthritis has made me patient.

rheumatoid arthritis has made me resilient.

rheumatoid arthritis has made me stronger than I ever could have been. 

and for that, I'm grateful. 



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