Bherring's RA Story

Hello. I was feeling overwhelmed today and started searching for RA support groups and found this site. I have shed a few tears just finding it. I am having a down day. Here is my RA story:

My initial symptoms and testing

It started with joint pain at both hands, wrists, elbows and occasionally feet, ankles and knees. I participate in Tai Chi, water aerobics, Zumba and dance. I work full time. I was fearful of losing my job due to decreased hand strength. I was also helping to care for my father who was on Hospice care. I went to an rheumatologist who ran tests and was told it was OA. I was happy with this diagnosis, although it didn't sit well with my knowledge. I am a physical therapist and couldn't see what was clearly going on with my body. Looking back, I think my symptoms started years earlier, but were of a lack of energy, and stomach problems when I did endurance events (half marathons). A few years ago my stomach was acting up so badly that I went to my PCP. They ran all the normal tests which were all negative so referred me to a GI specialist. At 49 they ordered a colonoscopy, which was also negative, but during the pre-procedure testing they took my vitals and my heart rate was 36 bpm. I knew it had been too low lately, but I was in denial!! They put me under for the colonoscopy anyway. All tests were negative. I went back to my PCP and told her something was up with my heart rate. Long story short, I was in complete (3rd degree) heart block and needed a pacemaker. After getting my pacemaker, my stomach issues have largely gone away. (Not enough blood supply to stomach after eating??).

The joint pain was progressing

Anyway, the joint pain was getting progressively worse, but my husband was diagnosed with cancer and had to go thru chemo and radiation and it was a bad time and I kept ignoring my own symptoms because there is only so much I can deal with at once. After he was done with his treatment and was on the road to recovery, I finally made an appointment with another rheumatologist. Truthfully, I would have gone back to the 1st one if my insurance (which had changed) would have covered him, as perhaps I wasn't persistent enough with him. It was about 5 years between seeing the first rheumatologist and the second. When I went to her, my hands were beginning to get deformed at the PIPs and MCPs, one of my elbows couldn't extend completely and etc. She ran the bloodwork tests and diagnosed me with RA. We tried Methotexate, but it had little effect. Then she put me on Humira and it has been a miracle drug for me. I am so very thankful for this medication!! My joint pain is better by 90-95%, no kidding. But I still get these bouts of fatigue and just today I am putting them together with my RA. Seriously, I must be the worst PT in the world!!!!! Really, I think I just put so much off on being middle-aged and since my pain is greatly reduced, I did not think about the other ways RA affects me.

Thank you so very much for giving me a platform on which to share my story. I feel ashamed when I 'give in' to my issues. I missed Tai Chi tonight due to fatigue and I was feeling like a failure. Now I feel better. Thanks!

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