Seeking Stability

This winter has been a struggle with my rheumatoid arthritis, which has been surprising because the weather has been relatively mild compared to most. We had only one bad storm and not as many stretches of cold days. Yet I still noted an increase in my achiness, stiffness, and exhaustion.

First, I thought to myself: “am I really feeling worse, or is it just my imagination?” Then as time dragged on, I realized it didn’t even matter. Because I felt worse, it just continued to drag down my energy and feeling about my health.

When I finally went to see the rheumatologist, my blood test revealed an elevated CRP level. On the one hand, I was happy to not be imagining things. On the other hand, I knew that my rheumatoid arthritis was worsening and my health along with it.

After a discussion, we decided to try an increase in my methotrexate to see if it would help. I currently take a small dose of prednisone along with a biologic and vitamins (especially folic acid, to help my liver with processing these medications). We added one more pill to my methotrexate dose, and I was to get my blood tested before returning to the doctor in six weeks.

When I first started methotrexate, it took about a month for me to start noticing an improvement. I expected about the same this time around with the hope that it would make a difference. Thankfully, I have felt an improvement. Although it’s not huge, my joints are feeling less achy.

The big test, of course, was my blood test. I was so relieved that not only did the CRP come down a couple points, but my liver levels remained in normal range. While we will need to keep an eye on things, this was a good start for improvement.

My hope is that as the weather warms, my RA will continue to improve. But I’m really happy to have re-entered a more stable phase of my illness. Even my doctor said that I was pretty stable and that he was feeling happy. So much of recent years have been spent on a yo-yo, where my joints feel better, then I get pneumonia. Or my joints feel worse and we don’t know how to react—is this just a short flare or a bigger issue that we need to address?

For a while, stability has felt like an elusive dream. I have worked really hard to piece it together—with exercise, medications, and a workable routine for daily living. A couple months without huge fluctuations would be a wonderful feeling. I am hopeful that I may be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel (please don’t let it be a train!).

Yet I still have ideas about things that I want to improve on. I want to rest more and stress less. Meditation is something I want to practice on a more regular basis. What if I actually got the sleep I need? I imagine this as a life-changing event. But I also want to do more aqua therapy.

I’ve come a long way, but if I achieved these changes to my life it could also make a huge difference in managing my condition. Would better self-care not only make me feel better, but let me ease down on some of my medications? Just have to take one step at a time—don’t hurry, do it right.

Others really don’t understand what a huge achievement stability can be for RA patients. But I see it as an epic mountain, one that I am climbing slowly, but surely.

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