Turn, Turn, Turn

I've begun to brush my teeth using my left hand, not as some brain experiment, but out of necessity (apparently brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand helps improve memory). To avoid pain. That is, if I can get the cap of the toothpaste off without too much trouble or excruciating pain shooting through my right hand and wrist. This is probably needless to say, but getting ready in the morning now takes at least twice as long as it used to. You don't realize how many things you need to open and untwist in a day with your hands--until you can't.

My history with RA wrist pain & surgery

My right wrist has been flaring up badly for months now. It's my "bad wrist," and the one that's permanently damaged from RA. I had a too-late and failed synovectomy surgery on it in August 1999. Unfortunately, by the time I had the surgery, aggressive inflammation ate up the cartilage in my wrist and even eroded some of the bones. I was in constant, excruciating pain before the surgery and afterward--which did not get better until about five years after the surgery, oddly.

Sometime in 2004, my wrist inexplicably stopped hurting. Well, it still hurt a little, but nothing like it had since the damage first occurred. Hooray! I was shocked and ecstatic. And I threw out all of the ugly, uncomfortable wrist splints and braces and wraps I had been forced to use since the surgery. That deep, throbbing, breath-taking shooting pain was gone! Until now.

The return of RA wrist pain

Now the pain is back, for reasons unknown to me and unknown to my new rheumatologist. And I'm back to wearing an ugly wrist brace while taking an increased dose of prednisone (which doesn't seem to be doing much). During these 15 years of my wrist "behaving" and remaining mostly pain-free, the sudden return of this extreme pain and disability is difficult to bear.

Things I haven't had to think about for 15 years are back in my life again: wearing a wrist brace constantly, being careful of lifting things and using my right hand and wrist at all (I'm right-handed, of course), being unable to turn the caps and lids of bottles and jars, having difficulty lifting the carton of orange juice out of the fridge, being barely able to wash and fix my hair, struggling to fasten buttons and pull up zippers and get dressed in general. And the list goes on.

The wrist pain brings disability and limitations

All of those things I mentioned are incredibly frustrating and depressing, especially as the flare-up continues to drag on. The main functioning problem I've been having since this started is opening things. Turning lids and caps. Unscrewing the tops of things. I'm now having trouble opening my stubborn, child-resistant prescription medication bottles each morning. I know there are clever little devices for those of us with arthritis and hand/wrist pain, to help us untwist those now-impossible caps and lids. But I don't want to use them. I might have one stuffed in a drawer somewhere, otherwise I don't even have anything. So much for being prepared! Instead, I've had to grudgingly ask people to help open things for me.

Asking for assistance

"Can you open this for me?" I ask as I hold out a jar of pickles. Or a packet of cheese whose zip-lock seems to be the tightest, most impenetrable zip closure in the entire world. I CAN'T EVEN OPEN THE CHEESE! I want to scream. I shouldn't be eating cheese anyway, but that's an altogether different issue.

Fighting through the pain

If I can't open food jars and packages and cartons then I guess I can't eat? Is this a new weight-loss program (that I don't really want)? I'm exaggerating a bit, obviously. Of course, I'm eating. But I'm having trouble getting into things now. I have to fight for my food. I have to fight to get dressed and take a shower and wash my hair. I have to fight and wince as I try to type on my laptop or text on my phone or do anything with my right hand.

Questions and fear of the unknown

It's been so long since I've had to deal with this, my wrist and hand betraying me, fingers also swelling and throbbing. I know the next thing to do on my part is to contact my rheumatologist again, because this flare-up obviously isn't going away. I'm also afraid that the new biologic drug I recently started taking, Kevzara, isn't working.

There are so many questions, so many fears, and so many unknowns. Will the flare-up go away? Or is this my new "normal?" Will I have to ask random strangers (or whoever's around) to open my water bottle for me for the rest of my life? I hope not.

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