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Newly Diagnosed

  • By frahlick

    Hello all,

    My name is Hannah, and I was recently diagnosed with RA as well as raynaud’s phenomenon. I have not told my family yet, and am feeling like I need to reach out to those who have similar circumstances and make the best of them!

    Here’s my story. Around October I started to get weird swelling in my hands, and in the morning I was so stiff I had to really work with my fingers to get them going. I brushed all this off, as I am a full-time mechanic in the Air Guard and often overuse my hands. It had started to get cold in October as well, and I had struggled with circulation issues since I was a kid. December rolled around and the symptoms had worsened to the point that I started to struggle keeping up at work. At this time I saw my family doctor, who ran some blood tests and found I had positive ANA and elevated RF. He referred me to a rheumatologist, whom I waited 6 weeks to see. During this time my hands basically became unusable. I also started to struggle a little with feeling down, as I’m a very active person and suddenly I couldn’t do the things I wanted to do without really struggling.

    When I got to see the rheumatologist, he decided to start me on prednisone and plaquinil. The hope was that going somewhat aggressive with the prednisone might get my mobility back faster. I was set to deploy in early spring, and I wanted to try to get everything back to normal in time to keep on the deployment list. Unfortunately, with the new diagnosis, I was medically disqualified. On top of that, they also said that this kind of diagnosis is likely to make me non-deployable forever, and may cost me my enlistment and job. Even if it doesn’t force me out of the military, I will get out in January ’19. If I’m unable to perform my job 100% of the time, I do not want to hold that job. I would hate to be in a war zone and suddenly not be able to use my hands. That lets my team down and puts everyone in danger. I’m still young, and at 23 I know that it’s not too late to find something else to do, but it’s still a little earth-shattering to have your whole life plan fall out from under you. I have a certificate in automotive technology and an associates in IT, so I’m not without secondary skills.

    My husband is very supportive and makes enough to keep us afloat while I evaluate my career goals. My mother has stage 4 melanoma, and with her and my father dealing with that I do not feel comfortable telling them about what’s going on with me. Don’t want to cause undue stress! I’m extremely grateful that forums like this exist to help out.

    Now that I will not longer be stationed here in Minnesota, my husband and I are thinking of moving to a warmer climate. Minnesota is beautiful, but the winters sure do get long, especially when the cold hurts your joints and cuts off the blood supply to your hands//feet. Have any of you relocated to another, warmer state? Has it helped with the pain? My uncle has RA and has said that he keeps a house in Florida for his flare-ups because the humid air feels so much better.

    Any advice for someone newly diagnosed? My rheumy is a great doctor and I feel comfortable with him. I feel that I got lucky in that way. What triggers flares for you guys? What helps? Any holistic options to consider? I’m staying on the same meds for the next year, but I know prednisone is not good long term, even at a low dose.

    Thank you for reading! I appreciate the time taken. 🙂

    -Hannah

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