My Hands, My Hands

You are stealthy,
You stalk me,
My nemesis, you
I fear no one,
But, I fear you
I am helpless
I cry before you
Against my will
You have no pity
With your attack
Binding my hands,
With your presence
My hands, my hands

I wrote this poem back in July of 2011. In October, I took a picture of my hand. My left hand, as I am right handed; they looked the same at the time. My goal was to collect evidence once a year and keep a visual record of their appearance. This way, I could keep track of my RA. Not that I want to claim or own RA, but that is a choice I was not given.

I had a pretty good rest of the year. I felt better overall. More limber. I became more involved with my Tai Chi organization. Attending several classes a week and volunteering to write for and edit their newsletter. It offered me an outlet and a chance to make more friends.

In November, I saw my rheumatologist and almost fell off my chair when it was revealed that my CRP was three. Three! This main measure of inflammation, which is the bane of RA, was normal. I could not believe it. My blood levels had not been normal since 2004, when I was first diagnosed with RA.

There is no way to describe how I felt. I’d been given a gift. A gift from above. I drove home in a daze, the sun seemed brighter, the sky bluer, the palm trees more beautiful. Even the heavy Miami traffic seemed lighter and I was driving at rush hour. Traveling at 10 miles an hour, when I could move, just helped prolong my jubilation. I could not wait to tell the people who mattered to me, who cared about me.

When I saw the doctor next in January, I noticed he had not included a CRP level in my usual labs. I’d been looking forward to seeing if my numbers had held steady. But, I was feeling great. I’d thrown myself into quilting, having made three quilts in less than three months. My hands could handle all those fine motor skills. Yes, my fingers could be a little stiff in the morning, but it was not every morning. I marveled at that. It gave me hope.

The doctor asked how I felt about decreasing my Methotrexate dose once again; this is a chemotherapy drug used to combat Rheumatoid Arthritis. He smiled at me as I almost danced to the checkout desk. That meant I’d be going down to one pill a week. One! Down from the maximum dose of ten pills or 25 milligrams, which I’d been started on seven long years before. Now, I was looking at the next step, none. I would be left solely on vitamins and a daily anti-inflammatory. I could not contain my exhilaration at my near victory over this scourge.

And then came February. I was busy working on my fourth quilt. My dragon quilt for our Tai Chi Chinese New Year’s party had been a hit. It was raffled and won by a member of the Branch Council. She decided to donate it for display at the center. I brought it home to add a sleeve to the back of it for hanging. This was something that required handwork.

I put it aside for a bit. I wanted a break from it. A week, I told myself, and then I’ll do it. I concentrated on the next quilt, to be named Aloha Sunrise, for a sister-in-law who loves Hawaii and went to school there. I’d special ordered the fabrics from Hawaii itself.

I machine quilted half of it and the next day my right hand was hurting, I blamed it on wrestling with the quilt as I maneuvered it through the machine. I gave my hand a day of rest and then resolutely finished the rest of it. After that, my hand really complained. I hung up the quilt and decided to give it a good long rest,

That was over two weeks ago; my hand is still angry with me. It is quite swollen and painful. I am limited as to what I can do with it. Thinking it was overuse, I not only stopped quilting, I stopped doing pretty much everything except writing. Yesterday, my left hand decided to join the bandwagon. And that is a unique sign of RA. You get the double whammy, bilateral pain, insult to injury.

I’m hoping that it is coincidence. That my lucky numbers of one and three do not add up to thirteen. A number symbolic of bad luck. I see my doctor again in nine days and we shall see not only what transpires in those nine days I must wait, but what my numbers will be like then. Meanwhile, I probably should consider buying stock in the pharmaceutical company that manufactures my over the counter pain pills.

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