This Pain Isn’t Normal

As a retired military male of age 44, a long 13-hour work shift is the norm in the civilian defense contracting business. I had thought that the pain associated with climbing down military aircraft, lifting bombs and missiles, and utilizing an assortment of special hand tools was normal. Especially, after performing this arduous job for over 20 years.

In the beginning, swelling in my feet, knees, and hands would occur once every other month. My body always felt tired and fatigued as if I had completed a long water workout in the pool. My remedy was to take time off from work for a few days and rest. Leaving the heavy steel toe boots at the door and prop my legs up on the back of the couch. A few cold cans of my favorite alcoholic beverages would also do the trick. There were many of times. There were times when I would also push through the pain at work. Watching the clock, counting the minutes until my shift was over. As time went on, the frequency of these flare-ups occurred closer together. At times, flare-ups occurred on a weekly basis. The entire process took 3-5 day to heal up. These pains can’t be normal. Let’s just say that my work wasn’t always happy because I had already used up all my accrued paid sick/vacation time for the year.

Up to this point at age 44, I have used alcohol to subside and mask the real problems that my body was going experiencing. My routine looked like this: work, pain, drink, sleep, and go back to work the next day. With this pattern, I also discovered that I was an alcoholic with alcoholic tendencies. I have since then stopped drinking 100%. I believe that the discovery of my diseases might have come much earlier had I not numbed my pain with alcohol.

The symptoms had become worse. Examples include: fatigue, sleepiness, drained of energy, arms and legs feel heavy, loss of weight and appetite, hard to get up a move because of stiffness. After seeing various military doctors spanning 15 years, it was determined that I should be referred out to see a pain and joint specialist, a rheumatoid arthritis specialist. All the suggested treatments (Xrays, MRI’s, and a bone density scan) explored was not working. Fast forward, the specialist determined I have RA from what he had seen during my body examination to include a new set of blood labs. My RA factor, sed rate, and all other indicators were ridiculously high.

Since my RA/osteoarthritis/Fibromyalgia diagnosis at age 44, I had chosen to leave my career in aviation of 25 years, stay at home and heal up. My body couldn’t handle the stresses associated with aircraft. Especially after having to take prescribed RA cocktail mixture of medications (Enbrel, methotrexate, prednisone, and meloxicam). My worrying sets in because the medications have drastically limited my job options.

I’m age 45. Although my working career has been abruptly cut short, I firmly believe that all things happen for a reason. For now, instead of working with airplanes, bombs, missiles, and hand tools, I now move flower pots and do a host the things that come with gardening. I’m happy and content with what lies ahead. I just smile when I see a military jet fly over the house. My wife and two boys now understand that the pain that I was experiencing was not normal.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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