Tag Archives: pain management

Inner Peace and Invisible Pain

I have survived over a week with shingles and I have to say it was not easy. After having four kids, and RA, I should have a high tolerance for pain, I would think. Apparently, I do not.

But then again, the above mentioned wasn’t nerve pain. That falls into a category all by its unique self. I call it the invisible pain.

The rash has subsided, gone to pink again, but the swelling persists. I have a lopsided belly and my hip area is exquisitely tender, yet hard to the touch. I had no idea there was so much swelling involved with shingles. And since it’s the right side of my belly that’s inflamed, I feared for my liver. After nine years of methotrexate, I should fear for my liver!

But, my doctor palpated and said it was fine, just inflammation. A word I’m all too familiar with. And because of its immunosuppression side effects, he took me off the mtx until further notice. Today, I should contact my rheumatologist and tell him about it. Maybe he wants to start something else.

I’ve hesitated to call him because I’m afraid he’ll want to see me and a visit to him is a three-hour sitting around marathon. I can’t sit right now, not for three freaking hours! But, perhaps we can speak on the phone.

I never thought something could make RA take a back seat, medically speaking, but hats off to shingles. The pain is akin to having a flaming torch applied to your side, while a thousand knives hack away at you by turns.

After twelve days, the temperature on that torch is somewhat diminished and the number of knives has decreased to the hundreds. The area they now concentrate on is thankfully smaller. Maybe that’s why the effect feels lessened.

Yet strangely, amidst all this, I feel inner peace. I am being tenderly cared for, dare I say even pampered and catered to. I’m receiving the type of medicine one can’t buy, and has no price. One whose value can never be quantified, and best of all, comes with no side effects.

Unless, you count love.

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Maskerade

RA is such a handy little villain. So easy to blame for whatever feels wrong. If I’m tired, I blame RA. If I’m fatigued, I definitely blame RA. If my joints ache for any reason, it’s RA’s fault. If my hands are stiff, sore and swollen, well, we know why, don’t we?

So, this past week my hip hurt. Bad. Immediately, I thought bursitis. It’s back. Suck it up. It’s RA at work again. I downed some of my friend/nemesis, good ole Prednisone. 20 mg. Take that, RA.

But the next day, there was no improvement, rather it felt infinitesimally worse. How could that be? I downed another 20 mg. And what struck me as strange was that it did not hurt to walk. That did not jibe with bursitis, but I pushed that to the back of my mind and concentrated on the exquisite pain I felt just touching the skin around the right side of my pelvis.

I added the heating pad to my regimen, sleeping on it, exactly like you’re not supposed to do. I depended on its automatic shut-off. And anyhow, who was sleeping? 10 mg of Flexeril afforded me three hours tops. The pain was King!

Soon there were bags under my eyes from sleep deprivation and a funny little trail of pink dots over my hip. “I don’t like the looks of that,” said my husband. “Stop using that heating pad.”

But of course, I didn’t. It was palliative; it was a placebo for my pain. The dots got bigger and redder. But still I could walk without the slightest limp. How could it be bursitis?

Yesterday I caved. Went to the Urgent Care. My heart rate was 108, my BP was 160 over what I don’t remember. My systolic BP usually runs between 110 and 120, my heart rate 80 something.  Yep, I was in pain. In so much pain, I couldn’t even multiply 2.5 times 6 to tell the nurse what my weekly Methotrexate dose is. Me, who could calculate IV drips in my head couldn’t multiply simple numbers.

Later in the exam room, my husband verified that 2.5 x 6 was 15; I was on 15 mg of MTX. The doctor came in, did the normal drive-by history, then took one look at my hip and said, “Aha, you have shingles.”

Shingles!! (Insert four- letter word here!)

Well, blow me down. I’d never even seen a case of shingles in all my years of nursing, though I have read about it. Read about how painful it can be. And ironically, I just finished a course on pain management for my license renewal. How providential.

I was given a shot of Toradol along with some sympathy. The Toradol is for pain and inflammation, the sympathy was a bonus from the nurse. And then, I was sent home with a long list of prescriptions. The Percocet makes me sleepy and dizzy, so I’ve been catching up on my sleep.

But the Lidocaine patches, mercy me, what a blessing. They suck away the peripheral pain from all over my right side. I can touch now without causing that electrifying agony, and paradoxically, my sensation is returning. My skin had felt numb, yet on fire. Neuralgia is a funny thing.  So funny, it almost made me cry.

Now, I have to concede that RA is only indirectly involved in this little incident. The meds I take for it leave me immunosuppressed. But this taught me something. To not let RA mask what might be truly going on. I suffered for four days needlessly. I should have sought treatment sooner. I shouldn’t have waited and self-treated. This lesson was driven home quite piercingly.

Meanwhile, the nurse said I am contagious so I had to tell everybody to stay away for a week. I won’t have my little ray of sunshine this weekend.

smile

My best medicine. A loving smile from my cutie.

My Lover, My Friend

I’ve been trying to say goodbye to my friend called Prednisone. Or at least, so long. He’s a good buddy to have around at your beck and call, as long as he knows his place. His place in the medicine cabinet, that is. But, I think he loves me more than I love him, because he’s gotten a reprieve. Not only will our connection not be decreased, he will stay on board a bit longer.

I was all set to start our goodbye process, a process that can take weeks, even months. We’ve been intimately involved since March when my right hand suffered a blow, or rather a blow-up. It became so swollen and painful, it was basically rendered useless. My left hand jumped into the fray and compensated as best it could, but the only thing that tore at the devil called Pain was my bestest friend.

Candy, I used to call him, though he is a bitter pill to swallow, literally. Every morning he’s there, waiting patiently for me. I want him, but I don’t want him, even though he does make me feel good, spry, nimble, young again.  Like a lover, he gives me a good feeling all over, once that initial swallow of tea takes him down into my innermost.

We will have to continue our relationship through the rest of the year, I suppose. He has a new area to caress and concentrate on. My chest, right over my heart. How ironic is that?

Costochondritis, my doctor calls it. A fancy word for swelling of the cartilage that connects each rib to what is commonly called the breastbone. This pain is not as severe, but then I don’t use my chest like I do my hands. Though one thing it does have in common with the hand pain is that it’s there all the time. All the time.

So, when I leave for The Big Easy in a few days, my good buddy will be first and foremost on my list. I was going to take him along anyway, as insurance. Now, he will go with me as assurance.

Green Bananas

Why is there a picture of bananas on a blog about Rheumatoid Arthritis? Maybe because I am bananas to think anyone will read it.

Maybe it’s because nutrition is so very important in the management of any disease process. And it is of prime importance in the maintenance of a healthy body. Our bodies are made to run like well-oiled machines, but sometimes that oil pan springs a leak.

Maybe because to me, yellow is the color of hope. And the color of sunshine. The sunshine that brings welcome warmth to our aching joints and lights up our day, bringing us out of the darkness whose name is pain.

Yellow is also the color for caution. As we move from stoplight to stoplight in our lives we must proceed with caution. It is what rules the life of someone with RA. We must take care not to overdo, for that invites the pain.

We must also take care to DO. Exercise and motion keeps those joints fluid. True for any body, more so to a body with RA. Use it or lose it could not be more applicable.

As I use this forum to share, connect and inform about my disease, I look for the color green. For green means go. I want to go. Go on with my life, go on with my future, the best way I know how, for me and for those whom I love and love me.

And no, no green bananas for me.