A Terminal Case of Butterfingers

No, I don’t mean the candy bar. Though I haven’t had one in about a thousand years (Ok, I exaggerate), I can still savor the crumbly, peanut-buttery taste that slowly dissolves in your mouth. Unless you crunch down and chew it away quickly. And who wants that?

I refer to actual fingers. Mine, to be exact. And I suppose those of many others who deal with some form of arthritis. In my case, both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

OA comes from wear and tear. And after thirty years of mostly bedside nursing, raising children, and keeping house my hands are worn and torn. Not visually, mind you. Visually, they’ve held up pretty well.

But inside, oh, inside they hide the impact of their hard work.

Now RA comes uninvited. Unbidden, as I referred to it in one of my poems. I’m not sure when mine came knocking, but it was formally introduced to me in 2004. Ten years this relationship has lasted. Ten official years of living together.

The first thing I noticed, the first physical thing, other than a generalized malaise and lethargy, was the declining agility and flexibility of my hands. They seemed to be stuffed with cotton. Or stuffed in several layers of mittens. Mittens, not gloves.

Suddenly, the people behind me at the grocery check-out line had to wait patiently while my clumsy fingers dug out small coins from my wallet. Even the bills seemed to be stuck together in a way they’d never been before. I’d always paid cash with the correct change for my groceries. Something my father taught me, I suppose.

No one said anything, but I could feel the eyes on me as they waited. And waited. I began to feel self-conscious about it and that made the going even slower. My heart beat at a higher rate as my turn approached to lay my things on the conveyor belt.

It’s silly, isn’t it? To worry about being able to dig money out of your wallet fast enough. But that wasn’t the only thing my seemingly thickened, somewhat petrified fingers affected.

The sewing needle seemed to have disappeared. It’s girth reduced to nothingness. I could see it, but picking it up and holding it was another matter. It was a minute, slippery, slithery snake that I could barely control.

Along came steroids (Prednisone), and with that a new day dawned. Or maybe an old day, when I had full control of my fingers, when they were dexterous once again. And, painless.

I have had many years on steroids, and many years off steroids. Off is better. Better for your overall health. On is better for your fluidity of movement. Though it is an artificial suppleness.

Currently, I’m off. And plan to stay that way. At least, 90% of the time. With RA you learn there is a lot of give and take. And if you don’t give, it will take.

I have come to accept that I will henceforth live with a terminal case of butterfingers. At this point, a slight degree of painless butterfingers. One that does not stop me from doing anything I want to do. From writing to typing, from cooking to hand sewing, from housecleaning to holding an actual book in my hands. From caressing the lovely little faces of my granddaughters to whipping out the credit card to buy them things.

And speaking of the art of buying, we’re going shopping today. I think I will pick me up a bit of that crumbly, peanut-buttery escape.

8 thoughts on “A Terminal Case of Butterfingers

  1. Carla Kienast

    Now you’ve done it. I’m hungry for Butterfingers. I don’t buy candy often, but I do buy some of the half-price mini-sized candy bars after Halloween and stash them in the freezer. Don’t you just hate that RA makes you clumsy? (and hungry for Butterfingers …)

    1. Irma Post author

      Wouldn’t you know I forgot to get me a Butterfinger, but yesterday I had a peanut butter Snicker bar. Did the trick and satisfied my chocolate craving. Chocolate is medicine after all!

  2. Wren

    A lovely post, Irma. I’ve noticed this clumsiness in my hands, too, and sometimes it’s so frustrating! When my hands and fingers hurt (I also have OA in my fingertip joints) I expect to be butter-fingered and compensate as best I can. But when they don’t hurt (or at least, not much) I’m always surprised when things slip out of them, or I can’t grasp them like I normally would–or used to.
    It’s good to know that others also cope with this on a regular basis. I wish none of us had to, but at least we’re in good company! 😀
    Mmmm. Butterfinger candy bars. It’s been years.

    1. Irma Post author

      Hi, Wren. Yes, it’s so annoying when you think you’ve got a good grasp on something, it suddenly slips out of your fingers. Happens more often than not. Guess I have to concentrate more and not take it for granted that my fingers are up to snuff still. One more thing to think about!

  3. J.G. Chayko

    I can relate – I’m always dropping things, knocking things over, even my handwriting has changed. But I can still function, consider myself blessed and have accepted my new clumsiness in life. Cheers to you for your positive attitude and your strength for not allowing arthritis to take over your life.

    1. Irma Post author

      Sometimes I think if I ignore RA, it’ll go away. As if! But still, I refuse to let it dictate what I can and cannot do. It had it’s heyday with me for a while. Now, I’ve got the energy to fight back and take back territory it once had confiscated. Every day is a good day, another day to make the most of what I can do.

  4. alicesadams

    I can totally relate! I go to the grocery store and you put a quarter in the slot and get your buggy and when you finish you after you put up your buggy you get it back I keep a few quarters in one of my cup holders so I will always have them. Sometimes it takes me a while to get that quarter out! Some days I drop things alot! It seems that my fingers just won’t do what I want them to! First thing in the morning my fingers are so stiff! My husband pours me a cup of coffee as soon as it finishes brewing. He gets up alot earlier than me. When I get up I reheat that cup in the microwave! Then I sit down with both hands on my cup to get the heat and help the stiffness go away. I really enjoy your posts and can relate to alot of things that you write about. Thanks for sharing!!

    1. Irma Post author

      Hi, Alice. Thank you, glad you like the posts. I, too, start my day with a cup of coffee. It feels good going down and the cup warms my hands. Some mornings my fingers are stiffer than others, but they loosen up pretty quick. Hope you are doing well.


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