The Unwelcome Premonition
In my late twenties, a lady who worked in the same building as me, someone I barely knew, came up to me one day and told me she was psychic. “Go on” I thought, amused, “I don’t really believe in that stuff”. She lowered her voice and said “I don’t want to tell you this but I have to. You really need to look after yourself because before you’re forty, you’re going to develop a serious health problem, something to do with your joints”. I froze and felt the life drain out of me. My grandmother suffered with debilitating Rheumatoid Arthritis and died the day after I was born, due to complications during knee surgery. Her loss has always haunted me. I told my partner, he thought it unusual, but dismissed it. But I never forgot it.
At age 35 I began to experience ongoing fatigue. I put it down to getting accustomed to city life, as we had recently moved from the country, and the pace of life is definitely different. I had always been fit and healthy. I would try to maintain my exercise routine, and then after a couple of weeks fall in a heap, unable to do much else except sleep. Then my hands started to swell up, for days at a time I could barely move them. Then it would go away again. I thought I must have some weird virus, Ross River? I had all the blood tests, iron, thyroid, sugar etc etc. Nothing. I thought I must just need to improve my lifestyle.
Then my knees started hurting, and my feet, my wrists, my back. The fatigue continued to worsen. Eventually my doctor said she’d like me to see a Rheumatologist. I was terrified. I booked the appointment, then cancelled it. Deep down I knew what it was but couldn’t face it. My partner, only trying to be helpful, convinced me to try natural therapies. So I spent the next year researching and trying everything in existence that claimed to cure RA. Turmeric, boswellia, fish oil, evening primrose oil, green lipped mussel, no-carb/sugar/dairy/soy/meat diet etc etc. My symptoms continued to worsen. I developed shooting pains through my feet and back, numb hands and wrists. Finally I began to study reputable sources of information from the Arthritis Foundation. I didn’t want to take medication, but realised I probably had no choice. I went back to the doctor, had more blood tests, and re-booked with the rheumatologist, then waited months for an appointment. My doctor told me to wait to see him, as he was one of the best. He confirmed the diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Fibromyalgia (yay). He started me on methotrexate straight away. I told him of my self-help efforts to date and my fear of medication. He made it abundantly clear that proper medical treatment is extremely important and far outweighs the risks of side effects. He was very positive and confident that my situation could be significantly improved. I left feeling overwhelmed, relieved and hopeful.
I started on the medication, grateful that my partner was supportive of my decision. I noticed I felt much worse for a couple of days following the tablets, unable to get comfortable in any position. A bit of a dry mouth and upset stomach, but nothing I couldn’t handle.
What I was not prepared for was the backlash of negativity that was unleashed upon me by judgmental and uninformed family members. People who I thought cared about me, began posting unsolicited opinions on social media about how dangerous the medication is, and how all I needed to do was this.. this.. and/or this and I would be cured. Each day it was a different solution – a special diet, a magnetic bracelet, boron tablets, mercury poisoning. Each post hurt more than the last, I said nothing but finally, blocked the individuals involved. Not once did those family members call to say “How are you? We’re thinking of you”. I never expected to feel so hurt. I phoned my Mum in the middle of the night and cried like a baby.
My employer has been very empathetic. I explained that I am hoping with the proper treatment I will experience great improvements, but for now I have limitations. Some days I can’t make it through the day. It has only been two weeks on the methotrexate, the full strength dose is next week. I am trying to remain very positive and hopeful. I am continuing my healthy diet, and walking for an hour or more each day, most days. People ask me how I am feeling, I say I feel like the walking dead, but I just keep walking anyway.
Reading the stories and information on this website has been very comforting and informative. I would like to thank the publishers and contributors for such an excellent resource. It may sound clichéd but it means a lot to me as I’m sure it does to others.
Right now, what RA tips would most be helpful for you?