Tag Archives: Osteoarthritis

Age of Gratitude

It may appear that right now my cup is half empty. But appearances can be deceiving. Especially when you focus on the negative.

In reality, my cup is at least three-quarters full. I have much to be grateful for.

For starters, my wrists x-ray results: Right wrist normal. Left wrist shows “changes consistent with age.” At first I was like, age? What do you mean age? I’m still in the prime of my life.

But then I calmed down and realized that it’s true. I have aged. Just looking at my fingers tells me how much wear and tear this old body has taken. And it’s good wear and tear that came from caring for my family, caring for my patients, going without sleep, pushing with that last ounce of energy to set up a bed for that new admission, walking mile after mile to make my rounds among all my patients and nurses, driving leagues to cart my kids and their friends to school, to the mall and back. All these actions, done out of love, for people who depended on me.

So, Ok, I accept this diagnosis and I’m proud to have it because that means I’ve lived long enough to make a difference in many people’s lives. And furthermore, I’m lucky that the osteoarthritis chose to settle into my left wrist first and not my right. Who knows, it may never reach for my right wrist, but OA has shown me a kindness. Now when the pain sets in I give thanks.

I also give thanks for being squashed during my mammogram last month. For some reason it was less fun than usual this year. That cold, cold machine and hard, hard plastic up against my ribs left me sore and reddened. Every time the tech said, “You can breathe now,” I wondered how exactly.

But all came back normal, as did my gynecological checkup. The discomfort involved with the mammogram is a small price to pay for one more year’s peace of mind.

I’m thankful that I can enjoy my children and grandchildren. I’m grateful to have them in my life, to know that they are there every single day. I can never, ever be alone because I have them.

I’m grateful to have a man in my life who tries to make me happy every single day. There have been ups and there have been downs along the way. The ups so high and the downs so low that sometimes I think the best word to describe us is cleave.  A word that simultaneously means to cut apart and to bind together.

A few days ago, we returned to St. Augustine, Florida, to explore the ancient city some more, to reach back into the history that reflects our heritage. To spend some couple time alone and to celebrate 34 years together, 34 years! That’s more than half my lifetime, but after all this time things certainly go a lot smoother and are far more relaxing and satisfying. The x-ray results were correct. There are changes consistent with age.

St. Augustine.fl

We requested and got the same corner room we’d had last time. The view was amazing and the sound of the ocean mesmerizing.

 

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Gratified

Ever since I was diagnosed with a retinal hemorrhage in my right eye seven weeks ago, I’ve been wondering what my rheumatologist would have to say about it. I requested that a copy of my test results be sent to him from the ophthalmologist’s office. The main things I ascertained with the ophthalmologist at that time was that, yes, I could fly, as I had two trips pending. And yes, there was a 50/50 chance that it would clear up on its own.

Though I’ve been seen by this group for years, I was not comfortable following through on their suggested treatment, intraocular injections. Perhaps it’s unfair of me to say so, but they didn’t inspire confidence in me, not the kind where I would willingly subject myself, and my eye, to their prescribed treatment.

Since I did have the upcoming trips, I decided to lay low, go on about my business and wait to see what would happen. I knew I ran the risk of it worsening. As the ophthalmologist stated, “You might end up doing the shots just to get back to where you are now.”

The fact of the matter is that I see almost perfectly, when my left eye is compensating of course. When I close the left eye, it appears that I am seeing through a smudged glass door, not the whole door is smudged, just the top center portion. And with my new glasses for distance, it’s like I’m seeing 3D, as I told my son making him laugh. But as the optometrist told me, “I can’t fix what’s going on with the right eye.”

My readers (expensive compared to the 20-dollar-over-the-counter kind) don’t seem to afford me better vision than the 20-dollar-over-the-counter kind. I find that they are great when reading on my tablet or my phone, but not so great when reading on my laptop. I use an old cheap pair for that. In fact any old cheap pair as I have a pair in every room of the house. I’m not sure why the difference, perhaps it’s the distance from the screen. Who knows?

But that is what is most concerning to me, my ability to read. When I close my left eye, the words are blurred at the top and clear at the bottom. It’s possible to read, but difficult. I can’t imagine not being able to read at all. I’ve always read. As far as my memory goes, I’ve read. I don’t live one day without reading, ever.

My rheumatologist was concerned about this development and asked if the ophthalmologist had mentioned it having any relation to RA. I told him he’d said that we’d have to “work real hard to find a connection between the two.”

He agreed that I should get a second opinion and referred me to a retinal specialist he knows. Since I trust my rheumatologist implicitly, I feel I already trust this new specialist without ever having laid eyes on him. But that’s a good start. We shall see what he has to say and go from there.

Of note, my labs were all normal with two exceptions. My CRP was slightly elevated, but that usually is. It bounces up and down depending on what I don’t know. My left wrist is still bothering me, though it’s not persistent RA pain. I know what that’s like and that’s not what’s happening here.

But there is definite swelling on the left side of the inner wrist. While examining it, he turned it this way and that, twisting my fingers into a pretzel and bending my wrist in all directions without it causing a bit of pain. But then he pressed down on the swollen part and yes, that hurt!

I’ve been on very small weaning doses of Prednisone for over two months, and I would think that the wrist would have gotten worse, and the CRP higher, but there’s been no effect on it whatsoever. It’s not worse but it’s not better, so I’m to have it x-rayed. Perhaps it’s osteoarthritis because it’s not acting like RA at all.

The other abnormal lab was my white blood cell count; apparently it’s high and he wants me to repeat it in a week’s time. I explained that while I was with Carmen she caught a cold and gifted it to me. It’s been ten days now with cold symptoms, but it does take me a while to shrug these things off.

He wasn’t to be swayed from repeating the lab test even after I explained the probable cause for the WBCs being elevated. So here we go, another needle poke, but at least I’m gratified to learn my immune system does work. Somewhat.

 

The Change

Over the years my fingers have gone through what I call “The Change.”

It would start with a stabbing pain, like a needle being repeatedly inserted into a specific joint. I’d be working and go to do something and the pain would make me suck in my breath and wince internally. I would not let on how much it hurt. I didn’t like letting others know of my pain (something I plan to write about later, my misplaced stoicism).

In those moments, I would squeeze the offending knuckle with my other hand to make the pain stop. The pain didn’t prevent me from doing what I had to do, accomplishing all the fine motor functions required of me. But it did make me angry that I had to deal with it.

And the worst thing was that I had to deal with it over and over again. One sad knuckle at a time.

I knew what it was before a doctor confirmed it. It was Father Time knocking. It was the life-clock ticking. It was Osteoarthritis setting in.

Once the change is complete, the knuckle looks swollen, has less mobility and it doesn’t hurt. But while the change is happening, the pain is oh, so exquisite. I don’t know why OA  picked my hands to strike first, but it did, it has. And still is.

This time it’s attacking my poor little pinkie. For the second time. Can’t remember when it got the first knuckle, but it now is engaged once more. photo (78)

The pinkie ring I used to wear can no longer traverse the length of the finger to settle where it once belonged.

The knuckle is tender all the time and filing my fingernail was a study in stoicism. But I will do my nails, dammit! RA or OA, or RA and OA, will not restrict what I want to do.

Ouch!