Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Rheumatoid arthritis for dummies

99% of the time I do not think of myself as a person "with a disability" although I guess technically because I have Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) I am.  Actually, what I originally had was Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA) diagnosed when I was 12 years old, but I didn't want to deal with that diagnosis or with the idea that I am "disabled" somehow so I literally ran away from the diagnosis. Which probably wasn't good for me at all because I'd have much less joint deterioration, but it is what it is and I'm doing pretty well.

But one thing that I conveniently forget is that it is disabling and I do have to keep on it.  The last few months I've been having on and off small flare-ups because I haven't been able to keep up on taking my Enbrel because I shouldn't take it while I have a virus (and I had that 8 week virus back in August through October with the thyroiditis) plus a couple colds here and there.  I was just getting back on schedule with the Enbrel for a week or so and I caught another bad cold last week.  So, yesterday was the beginning of an actual knock-me-on-my-ass flare-up where I had trouble sleeping from how much everything aches and my hands looks all puffy and like semi-inflated balloons and everything hurts so much that if I stub my toe or bump into a wall it feels like all my bones have are being shattered.  Yeah, days like today remind me I have a chronic illness.  Yuck!

With viruses and stuff like that, when I feel like this it is a natural response to go to bed and stay there all day watching re-runs of The Big Bang Theory.  With arthritis flare-ups it is a natural response to *want* to do that, but I can't because it will make it worse.  The irony of RA is that the more you don't physically move around, the worse it gets.  Which is why mornings are so hard and everything feels locked up. So, this morning I am drinking my coffee, taking some Aleve and gearing up to go take care of my horses.  I already took the pitbull for a walk and will take her for another one this afternoon if I have time.  It's completely counter-intuitive but if I don't keep moving it will snowball and the less I am active, the less I will want to be active and the more my joints will lock up and on and on.  And the more my joints lock up and dont' get blood flow to them the more cartilage I lose, and the more cartilage I lose the more chance I have of being permanently crippled. So, good motivation to get my butt out of bed and walking, doing yoga, doing Tai-Chi, riding horses, etc.

I am not looking forward to dealing with poor Girlfriend though.  She has mud fever, which is a fungus on her legs right down by the coronet band cause by being in the mud too much.  So, I need to shave the fur around her bottom legs and hooves so that the area will stay dry, scrub with some medicated soap, then put some ointment on. This is going to really suck and be hell on my hands, but it is also going to really suck and be hell on my knees stooping down.  But it must be done - not only for her, but for me too, to keep me moving.

We're moving her to her old owner's house today and I know I will breathe easier knowing she's living out in the pasture.  She's so old and stiff with arthritis she is just like me - and keeping her in a stall most of the time is akin to having her stay in bed. It's just making her worse.  Where I board her doesn't have all day turn-out so we're moving her to her old home where she'll be in the pasture 24/7.  I know it will take a lot of worry off my mind about her and I bet come Spring she will have bounced back some. Not enough to ride unfortunately, but at least she'll be more comfortable.

Meanwhile, still looking for the right new horse for me and the right home for Toad.  I know I will miss Toad horribly even if she's not the kind of horse I can just tack up and ride whenever I want.  I'm not sure non-horse people understand that.  Even some horse people don't seem to understand that just cause she's too high-maintenance for me to ride doesn't mean I'm not incredibly bonded with her and feel like I'm giving away one of my children.  I try to imagine the day she leaves and it makes me want to cry just thinking about it.  I was sad when Sinatra had to go back to the rescue because I couldn't handle him, but not this sad.  Maybe because I knew he was nearby and I could visit him and I don't know where Toad is going yet.  And maybe because he and I didn't bond the way Toad and I have.  He never seemed to care one way or another about me, whereas Toad seems to feel really safe with me and want to be with me and I feel even more responsible for her because of that.  Even though she's 16.1 hh's and weighs around half a ton, I feel like she's my little horse-girl and I am responsible for keeping her safe and happy and if I could just curl her up and put her in my pocket, I would.


  1. Your timing for this post could not have been better. Tomorrow I have an appointment with a rheumatologist and I'm terrified. Through a long, complicated story, I have been referred to rheumotology to rule out RA. I'm a healthcare provider. I know what that means. And I'm pretty sure it's not a frivolous referral. Little did you know, when you sat to write this post, that you'd be giving me courage to buck up for my appointment. If it is RA, life will go on. And I know I've got someone who's gone before who can cheer me along.

    1. I hope your appointment went ok. I'm curious what they came back with for your results. Hang in there. If you do have RA it is not the end of the world. The hardest part is right after the diagnosis and then things progressively get a lot better as you realize it is not a death sentence (or an invalid sentence) and as you find the right medication. You can email me directly and we can talk if you want. I looked for your email and couldn't find it otherwise I was going to email you.