National Arthritis Month!
I know what you’re thinking…the title of this blog has nothing to do with books. And yes, you would be correct. Mostly.
In most cases, the words arthritis and romance books don’t usually go hand in hand, but in my daily life…they are basically best friends.
In December 2014, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) or Rheumatoid disease. RA is an autoimmune disease that affects nearly 1.3 million Americans and causes severe joint pain, damage and immobility. Other symptoms include extreme fatigue, muscle pain and even heart disease.
Since it is #ArthritisAwarenessMonth I thought I’d share my story so that anyone who stumbles upon this searching for answers might find some sort of solace knowing there are others out there struggling along with them.
In October 2014, my family and I spent a week in San Francisco. My husband and I are originally from the Central Coast of California, and coming back to the Wet Coast is always nostalgic for us. We played tourists with the kids and let the grandparents spoil them for days on end. We walked, and walked and walked and I never complained. It was a typical vacation and I was loving life.
When we got home, I began gearing up for a signing the next month. Off and on during the weeks leading up the the signing, I remember telling my husband how I kept feeling like I was coming down with the flu. I felt achy everywhere and tired. But just as soon as I was convinced I was indeed sick, the symptoms would disappear. This pattern continued for much of November.
By December I was concerned. I hurt everywhere. Like old lady level hurt. I was thirty-three at the time and in fairly good shape thanks to a love of yoga and pilates. There was no reason I should hurt so much. So off to the doctor I went. I won’t get into how long it took to diagnose me, but it was several doctors, appointments and blood tests later. They tested me for everything from Lupus to Lyme disease.
But by the New Year, I had my diagnosis. Rheumatoid Arthritis.
To me, a full time writer who wrote thousands of words a day…this was a death sentence. I thought for sure my career was over.
I was started right away on Methotrexate…the go-to drug for RA and told to wait and see. I would learn this was going to be my new life. Wait and see…wait and see.
I won’t bore you with all the specific. If you want them (drugs I failed, etc–email me) but I went through a year or more of wait and see. It was one of the most frustrating times of my life.
Nothing worked. Every drug I tried, everything my doctor did…nothing worked. I was kept me on prednisone as a precaution. If anyone reading this has ever been on prednisone long term, I know you’re rolling your eyes and saying something like “Bless her heart” right about now. In less than a year, I’d gained sixty pounds from this drug. I felt like I was living in someone else’s skin. After I turned my required manuscripts into my publisher, my writing schedule went to shit and the simple task of getting out of bed seemed monumental. I hurt everywhere, was frustrated and yes, I was severely depressed. I was in a bad place.
I finally went to my doctor and said, “enough is enough.”
With her help, I weened myself off the prednisone. That alone was a huge help. I realized the prednisone not only was destroying my body, but my mind too.
Since then, I’ve found a drug that works for me, and I’ve entered remission. I know this isn’t permanent, and I know not every day will be sunshine and roses, but things are looking up. Finally.
In my rather short journey with an incurable disease, I’ve discovered so many things about myself, my family and those around me. There will be those who step up and support you, no matter what. My husband basically ran our entire household for the better part of a year, never expecting anything in return. Sadly though, there were those in my life who disappeared, choosing to walk away, rather than understand what might be going on in my life. I’ve also made valuable friendships with others who fight, and I know, because of that, when my fingers start to ache or I can’t sleep because of the pain, they are out there right along side me.
I’ve had friends complain about one thing or another in their life to me over the past year, and the immediately revoke their statement, saying something like, “But that’s not as bad as your pain I’m sure.”
My response is this. Everyone suffers. Everyone has pain. It’s how we deal with it that makes us stronger.
Let’s all be strong together.
If you’d like more information on Arthritis, please visit the Arthritis Foundation. If you’d like more information specifically on Rheumatoid Arthritis, please visit The May Clinic.
Date: May 10, 2016
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