Two stacks of tumbling blocks stand are surrounding a worrying figure.

Cascading Consequences

It seems like with my rheumatoid arthritis that one little thing going wrong can cause a cascade of negative consequences. It’s like setting up a trail of dominoes: knock one over and one by one they all fall down.

From a dead battery to flaring RA symptoms

My latest example started with a dead pool lift battery. Because the pool lift didn’t work, I couldn’t do my aquatic exercises for a week. Because I couldn’t do my aquatic exercises, I gradually felt stiffer and achier. Because my RA grew grouchy, my overall chronic pain increased. Because my pain increased, I couldn’t get quality rest. Because I couldn’t rest or sleep well, my RA grew grouchier and so forth. It didn’t happen this time, but bad RA days lead to missed worked and all sorts of canceled plans in my life.

Thankfully, a strongly worded email resulted in a new lift battery appearing quickly out of the ether (despite it being requested previously by the pool facility staff for months), so I was able to get back into the pool one week from when it died. But I know it will be another week or so before my body has recovered and my RA is in a better place.

The smallest change impacts my RA

I don’t know if I am just having my typically challenging winter with RA, or if having it for more than 40 years (since age two) has just really caught up with me. It seems when I am off my routine for just a couple of days that I quickly feel worse and have difficulty recovering. Just the smallest change can send my RA into a downward spiral.

In my experience, aging with RA has gotten trickier. It’s difficult to walk the delicate balance to keep my RA in a manageable place. I feel like I wake up with more bad days than ever before. It’s gotten so that when I wake up feeling terrible, I assess: Is this something that may possibly get better after a hot shower and extra medicines, or is this a stay in bed kind of day? Can I get by or do I have to scrap the day?

Regular exercise helps get me through

I credit doing my aquatic exercises regularly with helping me get up and get through the day. I may start off not well, but after some prednisone (maybe also some Tylenol) and a piping hot shower I can usually get started. As I wait for the heat and medication to work on my body, I start work. Usually, I feel better after a while and can contemplate some exercise and other activities for the day.

The aquatic exercises keep me moving and help my joints. They give me energy and I feel much better (albeit physically tired) after a session. The next day, my pain and stiffness are better. Each session builds into more RA stability, more ability to get through the harder days.

Grasping for access to exercise

It’s gotten so that I am greedy for that pool time. In the winter, it’s harder to get to the pool, so the maximum I can do it is three times a week. But I will move hell and high water to get there! I am eager to feel just a tiny bit better, to work out hard, but also enjoy the relaxation on my joints that come with floating.

So, when there’s bad pool maintenance (like two broken pool lifts and an empty ramped pool due to a leak), I quickly get angry. I see the cascading consequences for my body from extra days without my aquatics. I can sense the coming increase in pain and fatigue. I wish that others understood my aquatics isn’t optional—it’s what gets me through.

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