I woke up this morning, the first time in more than a week, feeling good.
Minimal stiffness in my joints.
I feel a bounce in my step and a definite clarity in my head.
Sadly, I’m getting these moments far too infrequently. The Rheumatoid Arthritis that was diagnosed in February, and in near total remission for the past 6+ months, had returned with a vengeance, as if to test out each and every possible joint in my body. Can we auto-immune bugs stage an attack on this little joint in her finger? Palm? Wrist? (I’ve re-discovered the fact that the hand has 29 bones and I suppose as many joints, which is why RA flares tend to settle in the hands; there are 33 joints in the feet but don’t ask me why I have fewer flares there). How about the top of the right foot, as if we’d dropped a bowling ball there? Wait, let’s try the left foot now. Could my night guard be failing me, or has RA found my TMJ?
This disease is sneaky. It is an auto-immune disease, which essentially means a false cry to the body’s mechanisms to attack healthy tissue and joints. It comes up with no rhyme or reason, and hits at whim. It makes you stop and think, “now, where did I injure my elbow?” and just as you have exhausted every possibility, the pain has moved on to a new spot. No pain med touches it for me– none of the NSAIDs, nor even some of the bigger guns that I reluctantly have tried on particularly bad days. The scariest thing of all for me is that the medical community cannot explain it much better than I can. It’s a random thing, no one really understands why one’s body suddenly begins attacking healthy tissue as if it’s a foreign body, namely the joints. Over time, it degenerates joints and misshapens them. It debilitates. Most Rheumatologists do not want to wait to start “treatment” to slow the degeneration, even though they are not 100% sure why the drugs they use work (in one case, a malaria suppressant has shown to work, but no one knows why). Of course they are at the ready to administer the steroid/cortisone shots or meds to help with the pain.
There is inconclusive research naming certain supplements and herbals and foods that may reduce inflammation in the body. I’m still testing these claims.
Sometimes the flares cause flu-like symptoms of complete exhaustion and malaise. You feel like such a lazy slug, with no energy. There also is what I call brain fog, where things just don’t seem as clear as they should, and you forget things. Some people reportedly run low-grade fevers, so I’m grateful not to have had that particular symptom.
The greatest paradox of all though is that movement and exercise helps. Although I don’t want to drag myself from bed most mornings due to the stiffness and soreness in my inactive joints, the quicker I can get into a hot shower, start moving, and do yoga, the better I’m apt to feel. Many’s the day I head off to yoga thinking, There’s no way in hell I can do down-dog with this wrist-hand pain, and an hour later I feel better. So there is a definite discipline involved in making yourself get up and active in spite of the pain.
How long do I get to feel good? I’m learning that I have no idea. I suppose until I make the decision to drink the Koolaid (take the drugs), “good” is going to be a daily crap shoot. God promises that he will use it all for good, He will bring good out of bad. And all I can do is just take one day at a time, and find some silver lining in every dark cloud.
Like this amazing man I get to wake up with every day. He’s got me. I’m a lucky girl.
So a day like today, where I don’t think about each movement, pain, or aching and stiff joints, is a joy. And I remind myself to be grateful for every glorious, good day like today.