Saturday, January 18, 2014

Some Fat Little Ponies

My daughter had her 10th birthday party at my work this evening.  She and eight of her friends had a pseudo-class as her birthday party.  It's technically a "class" but it's not set up like any of our regular on-going group classes.  The kids meet in the classroom first and learn a little about safety around horses then break up into groups of three and learn how to groom the horses and watch a demonstration on tacking them up then we go out to the arena and they all get to try riding Western, bareback and English.  It's all very structured and since most of the kids have never ridden horses or have been on pony rides or trail rides on zombie horses, we keep a teenage volunteer with the horses on lead line at all times.  Even my daughter didn't bother to ride independently on her own horse or on Dreamy who she used to ride in lessons.  She was having too much fun not having to think about riding.

It was really cute that for the "Western" portion the kids ride at a walk around the barrel pattern and then "trot home" (ie: trot from the far end of the arena back to where they started).  But one of the older greenies who was leading Bandit (our Western demonstration horse) asked my daughter if she wanted to trot up and down the arena and she said "Of course!" and it was cute how a bunch of the kids gasped and said, "OMG! Look how fast she's going! Wow!"  Ah yes.  Just you wait little sweethearts till you see a real barrel race.

A couple of the kids were VERY scared to ride although one of them was boy so although he admitted he was nervous he kept a poker face about it.  One girl was so scared when she first got on Geir that we took two steps and she'd demand, "No! No! Stop!" and I'd stop and she'd say she was falling, so I'd assure her she wasn't and give her a pep talk.  This happened about four times from one end of the arena to the other and by the end of the arena I was afraid she was going to insist on getting off because she was sheet white (which was a good trick seeing as she has very dark skin) and shaking.  Somehow I convinced her to stay on and to keep breathing and when we got back to the starting point one of the volunteers asked how it was and she said, "Fun!"  By the end of the night when her mom came to pick her up she was going on about how Dreamy is the best horse in the world and how she loves riding bareback.  It was really cool to see that!

At the end of class while all the kids were swapping out school boots for their own shoes and were "debriefing" (ie: screaming and giggling about which horse they loved the most) one of the moms who is about my age and was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis a few years ago took me aside and said, "I was watching you out there and thinking 'She does this all day'.  You are on your feet and running around like that all day. Doesn't it hurt your ankles and other joints? I don't know how you do it."  I told her sometimes it hurts my feet because the arthritis goes after my metatarsals (and ankles, wrists, knees, elbows, hands, etc) but that's what hurts the worst after a long day on my feet.  And she asked again how I could have a job like that and I didn't know what to tell her.  Except I only work all day on Saturdays and the other two days I only work for about four hours.  And I'm on my feet all day anyway taking care of my own horses or giving horses massages or walking the dogs or going to pilates or whatever I'm running around doing.  I guess nothing hurts enough to make it difficult.  My feet do ache at the end of the day but it's not a big deal.

It got me thinking about how lucky I am.  I recalled when I first went to see my current rheumatologist and his nurse picked up my chart and said, "R.A. - how long have you had that?" and I said, "Since I was twelve," and he looked at me in surprised and said, "You had Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis?"  and I said, "Yes?"  and he said, "I'm sorry, but most people who come in here who are your age with J.R.A. don't look like you.  They're not doing even close to as well as you."  So, I don't know what happened but apparently I am just extraordinarily lucky.  Otherwise I don't know what it is.  I take Humira right now but I don't take it as often as I could.  It's supposed to be one shot every two weeks and I take it about once a month or every six weeks or so depending on how I'm doing (I'm usually doing better in summer).  I take vitamin D and Omega 3's and I don't drink or smoke or do drugs but I used to smoke like a chimney for years and most people around here with autoimmune diseases take that stuff.  So, the only thing I do that is possibly different is I'm constantly physically on the move.  I have a physically active job, physically active hobbies and if I wake up and everything hurts (which does happen more than I'd like to admit) I get up and start stretching and moving around instead of staying in bed.  I've learned the past 30+ years that lying in bed when you have Rheumatoid Arthritis pain makes the pain much worse.

A couple weeks ago I was talking to someone and she said, "That's too bad you have arthritis but at least you don't have Rheumatoid Arthritis like my friend.  She is practically bedridden and is crippled."  I said I do have R.A. and she said her friend has had it for ten years and I said, "Um ... I've had it for thirty five years" and she said, "Well, you're lucky you don't have it like her."  I guess I am.  Or is it because I made decision years ago I wasn't going to give up on life just because I have R.A. or panic disorder or any of the other things I've had to struggle to overcome.  In a way it irritates me when people tell me I'm lucky to not "have a bad case of R.A." (that's not what my rheumatologist said when she first saw my x-rays).  I feel like it devalues how much effort I put into making sure I have a good life despite it.  There are some really frightening and crippling autoimmune disorders out there (Chrons, Lupus, M.S.) but for R.A. is not one of them.  As long as I keep moving it doesn't take over.  Maybe I am just lucky.  But I wonder if some of the folks who are really suffering, if I could convince them to get off the narcotic painkillers and just start exercising if it would get better for them too?  I don't know.  (narcotics tend to make autoimmune diseases worse in my experience - I wish there was a study out there about it so doctors would stop giving their RA patients narcotics)

So, yep, day after tomorrow my daughter will be 10 years old.  She's definitely embracing this whole "tween attitude" thing.  And she's definitely her own person with her own tastes and style.  Through her I've been introduced to a whole slew of pop music that I would be completely unaware of otherwise.  I could live without a lot of it but I be do agree on liking Pitbull and Macklemore.  With that I'll leave you with a fun song that we both really like.

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