Tag Archives: pain

Plantar Fasciitis and Me

Imagine a translucent marble stuck between you and the floor. It’s settled within your left heel and it goes everywhere you go. Most times it rolls into the inner aspect of your heel, other times it plays in the middle, and then just for fun it will toy with the outer rim for a bit.

You’re never quite sure where it will be, or if it will be. In the mornings, you sit up in bed and study the benign tile floor. The floor that used to feel so cool and smooth beneath your naked feet. Can I chance it, you think. Can I, should I, try walking the six steps to the bathroom without my shoes? It’s such an innocent request, to indulge a penchant for walking barefoot in the house.

You swing your legs over and gingerly place your feet on the floor. You stand, and oh, there it is. The marble says hello, and your shoes are in the closet, so you hobble on to the bathroom, careening and holding on to the wall, the vanity, the doorjamb of the bathroom door. To anyone looking, you would appear to be really old, or really drunk.

Once done with your morning ablution, you sway into the walk-in closet to retrieve your shoes. Ouch, ouch, ouch. Every step is a penance but what you are paying for you do not know.

You slip your feet into the warm embrace of your shoes and find that your prayers have been heard. You can walk upright and steady again. For the moment, the marble is neutralized.

(Some info on this condition and on foot pain with RA)

crocsI don’t mean to sound like an advertisement but, truly, these Crocs are the only shoes I can walk in for long periods. They have a cushioned sole akin to a shock absorber, an arch support, a heel cup that cradles and protects, and beading that massages my feet. The straps are elastic so they can never bind. And best of all, they are light, practically weightless, unlike me.

I currently own four pairs, two pairs stockpiled for later, because I don’t know how long this condition might last and I don’t want to run the risk of not being able to replace them. I use one pair for home, and one for running errands. They look great with my jeans, but even if they didn’t, I wouldn’t care.

It’s been several months now, and from my reading I find that I can be careening and swaying for up to one year. During my NYC trip last month, I had to take one day off to rest my foot. The pain was exquisitely excruciating, or excruciatingly exquisite, but definitely well worth it.

In two weeks, I will be on the road again, hopefully in time to welcome  a new grandbaby, and to reconnect with my lovely Carmen. There won’t be many opportunities to sit still with my feet up, but again, so very, very worth it.

Advertisements

Nightgowns and Shoes

I’ve been on a nightgown-and-shoe-buying kick lately. I know, strange bedfellows. I don’t think I want to know how many nightgowns I’ve bought, but I know how many pairs of shoes, three.

Why this particular bent? It does go deeper than mere materialism and is far more consequential than just acquiring more to stuff in my closet, for I soon realized I’d been subconsciously heeding the call for rest and comfort.

What triggered this consumption? The Great Prednisone Failure of 2015. My failure, my 2015. The experiment was a total bust. The pain came back. The hands, the feet, the general malaise. After a few weeks off Prednisone my body sat up and noticed. Hey! What happened to Pred?

It didn’t just beg the question; it screamed it. So I scurried into the safety zone, the metaphorical orange-cone ring made up of little white pills.

“You know what to do,” my rheumy said when I confessed my shortcoming. He proceeded to share how he handles flares with the help of our common little frenemy.

I nodded. Yes, the tiny, precious pills that can wreak havoc within your body in so many ways, and in the process grant you the ability to get up in the morning without feeling like a tin woman who needs a squirt of oil into every single cell.

“I want quality,” I said. “Not quantity.” Now it was his turn to nod. I’d rather have five good years and not twenty bad ones. He understood.

In the midst of renewed pain, sleep took supreme importance. Sleep is a great pain reliever, if you can get it. And so in direct correlation, I concentrated on updating my sleepwear.

Nightgowns are the only thing I like to sleep in. Sometimes I prefer silky soft, sometimes cottony soft. The style must needs be flattering, comfortable, and not bunch up under me. Sometimes I swear I’m related to The Princess and the Pea character. Every little wrinkle in the sheets drives me mad and I have to pull it straight. I’ve made my husband promise that he will keep my bed tidy when the day comes that I can’t do it myself. I doubt he will, but it makes me feel better to know he promised. 🙂

The brand matters not, so much as the cut and the fabric. Color matters in that it affects mood. I tend toward black, so refined, so elegant and sexy, too, because why shouldn’t you look nice while you’re sleeping?

And if sleeping is important, getting up and staying up is much more so, and that’s where the shoes come in.

I mentioned in a previous post that I am partial to Clarks. One day, I came across the most comfortable pair in the entire universe, not hyperbole I assure you, at least according to these feet of mine.

Their only drawback was that they were only available in white and it was way before Memorial Day, when I would have license to wear them according to fashion dictum. I couldn’t remember the last time I owned a pair of white shoes. It might have been back when I was wearing saddle shoes to grade school.

But there they were, on sale, and they fit deliciously. Or as Billy would say, they felt mahvelous. I took them home and when I went online to search for a pair in my signature black, there were none to be had in my size. I did find a similar style with the same cushioned footbed.  When they arrived I was pleased to discover they fit just as mahvelously. Since then, I’ve added a third pair in beige and am debating whether I need the navy ones, too.

Perhaps I don’t, after all black goes with everything, and pain-free feet go with eeeeverything. My heels don’t hurt anymore, no matter how much I walk in these shoes. And they were. The pain intense, indescribable, every step jarring needles poking me.

These sandals take me everywhere. I dress them up and dress them down. Whether it’s a leisurely stroll down the Art District, a dinner/movie/drinks date or just chugging up and down the grocery store aisles, these babies come through.

I am back on a very low dose of Prednisone, a tiny buffer between me and the pain. He mentioned injectable Methotrexate as a possibility. I said I would take it under advisement. We shall see, but we shall see in comfort.

"I wanna put on my, my, my, my, my, boogie shoes." -- K.C. and The Sunshine Band

“I wanna put on my, my, my, my, my, boogie shoes.” — K.C. and The Sunshine Band

System Glitches

I went to spend a week with my precious little Carmen. I tried to keep up with my reading while I was gone, hard do to with a two-year-old commanding all your attention, and I went with no illusions of being able to post anything. By the time I got to my room at the end of the day I was pooped and ready to recoup for another twelve-hour day. I took only my tablet with me, which is serviceable for reading but not very user-friendly for writing; it’s gotten slower than molasses. I’ve now replaced it with a new one. This one is Speedy Gonzales compared to the old one.

My laptop is on its way out as well. I hope I didn’t jinx it by typing that. It’s my writing tool and I have no idea what to replace it with. I don’t want to be rushed into anything so I suppose I will have to shop around and make a decision. That way I will be ready when it never comes back from its update, which it’s threatened to do a couple of times but the Geek Squad coaxed it back.

I, on the other hand, managed to come back from my overnight updates every dawn without any coaxing. Come 7 a.m., I was ready to go. There was only one application on my personal hard drive that wasn’t (isn’t) up to par; the one that powers my left wrist. At least I can give thanks it isn’t my left foot.

I’ve learned to compensate for it, though, by instinctively using techniques that spare the full use of my wrist. After all, I’ve had since August to come up with a plan B to circumvent this little glitch in the system.

It did hurt more than usual, at times giving me sharp, continuous, stabbing pains that made me imagine I was reliving a variant of the Psycho shower scene, music and all. I would grit my teeth and groan while grabbing my wrist and pressing down on the swollen part through the brace I wore. Somehow that made it feel better after a bit, or it could have been my imagination still at work.

Poor Carmen would stare at me with her big, hazel eyes and say, “Your arm hurts, ‘huela?” “Yes, baby,” I’d squeak out, pushing on my wrist with all the strength my right hand could muster.

But I remained on weaning doses of Prednisone. Never once was I tempted to increase the dose to give myself a hit, or I should say, an extra hit. In fact, I only took an extra week’s worth with me just in case, which amounted to a mere 25 mg that I never took. But it truly wasn’t all that brave of me to leave the whole bottle behind. My doctor is a phone call away and CVS is ubiquitous.

The week flew by when I measure it by Carmen time. When I measure it by work pending, it moved along at a turtle’s pace. But all good things must and do come to an end. I’m back at my desk and running at full steam. If only my laptop deigns to keep up with me. One thing for sure, there’s no rise of the machines here.

Sigh-

-atica.

The beast has been tamed. Though not altogether vanquished, its growls have been reduced to whimpers.

I had a total of four physical therapy sessions that boiled downed to learning some exercises to strengthen the muscles of my legs and limit pressure on the sciatic nerve itself. They all happened before I flew to Los Angeles exactly three weeks ago, a five-hour plane ride that I was dreading, and which dread spurred me to hurry up and do something!

The flights were not fun, there and back, but were thankfully direct so were over and done with as quickly as humanly possible. Aisle seats helped a lot as I didn’t have to maneuver that tiny space between seat rows.

Sitting hurt, but standing up hurt worse. At least, for that first step or two. I managed to get through the four days we were there fairly well. The ache a dull roar down my leg. But I’m very glad we went because we got to see my father-in-law in good spirits, and albeit with a cane, walking better than I was.

I held off taking Prednisone during the trip, but after flying back on a redeye, and with the three-hour time difference, the jet lag threatened to bury me. So I caved and did a six-day hit (20, 20, 10, 10, 5, 5 mg). That did the trick and also soothed away the egregious pain, for the most part.

I remain quite conscious of that leg, or that nerve, I should say. I turn over in bed with great caution. The wrong move sent an electrifying jolt down my leg and left a painful residue behind. For hours and sometimes for the whole rest of the day or night.

I’m careful not to sit too long either, which kind of puts a kink in the works since I work sitting down. I keep hearing my PCP’s admonition as he scribbled away on his Rx pad, “Don’t sit!”

This has also put my home downsizing project on hold. No more climbing the stepladder, no more lifting heavy books, no more pushing furniture around. Now I look at our record collection longingly. Yes, vinyl records, about 200 or more taking up space. They need to go into another room where I can’t see them anymore, as I’m not allowed to get rid of them. I guess I could carry them there one by one. Two by two.

Since I couldn’t sit and I couldn’t lift, I turned to culling my photo collection, and framing some of my more treasured moments. This fun trip down my personal memory lane was facilitated by using my cutting table as a work area. It’s high enough that I can stand and cut out countless quilt pieces without incurring miserable lower back pain.

I have not returned to PT, though they’ve been calling me. I don’t see the need. I should probably tell them that. I think I derived enough from those sessions to basically practice prophylaxis and prevent another attack of sciatica in future.

Still, I thought more info wouldn’t hurt so I bought a book last night. It’s written by a sciatica sufferer and at a whopping $4.99 for an eBook, I expected a lot more than I got. True, clinically, I realized I would know quite a bit, but at the very least I expected something that couldn’t be read in one sitting. What was even more disappointing is that it could have used some editing and a whole lot of proofreading. It feels like I threw my money away, but I guess, caveat emptor.

Though my screaming leg has shushed, I remain vigilant. And for now on standby, with a bag mentally packed. We have received word that my father-in-law is failing. He has battled multiple myeloma for several years and it appears his time is near.

graduation

Big Al with us at my husband’s graduation from Texas A&M Maritime Academy. A long, long time ago. 

A Ten Milligram Day

Yesterday I had one of those under-water-death-fatigue day. I treated it with an extra dose of strawberries and whipped cream. And while scarfing that down I wondered, if strawberries have anti-inflammatory properties and sugar exacerbates your symptoms, do they cancel each other out?

At the moment I didn’t care. It tasted so good, it made me forget that I was moving in slow-mo. And that it’s kinda hard to chase a toddler in slow-mo. But I figured out a solution to that, too. I don’t.

She loves being chased. It’s a game, but not to Abuela. At least not on these kind of days, so I just stand still and say, bye bye. She comes running back to me because the one thing she loves more than being chased is being included.

Bye, bye is what I also say to RA, but it too comes running back to me. Sometimes with a vengeance.

I am not an athlete, unless you count raising four kids, running a household and keeping up with a profession athleticism. Nor am I a warrior, though I like to think I have warrior blood in me.

photo (15)So I don’t know how to classify what happened to my right hand two years ago when it swelled up to the point of being useless for a month. Is it a sports injury or a war injury? But injured it is and every so often it swells up again to remind me.

I keep yearly photographic evidence of my hands. To see how they are holding up under duress. Today I can see the lumps and bumps between the metacarpals, the joints at the base of the fingers. The swelling is obvious.

The pain not so much.photo (13)

The dilemma this morning was how to untwist the cap and break the seal off  a new gallon jug of tea. I’d decided to up my Prednisone from the daily 2.5 to 10 mg. A veritable shot in arm, you might say.

But first I had to grip that sucker and twist for all my hand is worth, today. I can tell you it hurt like a **** but I am nothing if not persistent. It took three attempts that left me with the reddened imprint of the cap on my palm.

photo (12)

The Arthritis Foundation sent me a little gadget to open stuff. I remembered I’d packed it and ran and got it. Unfortunately,  it doesn’t work on caps this size.

photo (14)

 

 

I could have used this back in the day when I had to ask my nursing staff to open my bottles of lemonade. I hated the thought of having to ask for help, but RA makes you humble.

It also makes you stubborn and determined. I would have my glass of tea!

And I did.

Now to wait for the extra dose of Prednisone to do its job. I think I feel it working already. Or maybe it’s the hot water I ran over my hand for five minutes. Who would’ve thought washing dishes was therapeutic? Or maybe it’s the typing. Exercising my fingers goes a long way toward reducing the pain. Idleness is the bane.

photo (17)But there is no time for idleness now.

Not with these footsies to keep track of.

 

 

 

One Quarter Inch

One of the most unexplainable things is hand pain. Undescribable and indescribable.

Another is the absence of hand pain.

You cannot know one without knowing the other. If you’ve never had hand pain, the kind that makes you want to chop them off, you cannot relate to hands that have stopped hurting.

The pain consumes you and sabotages every act you engage in, or try to engage in. It’s depressive and depressing. “I can see you’re not feeling well,” my doctor said a few moments after walking into the exam room on my last visit.

Body language. My body had spoken volumes without my saying more than hello to him. I smiled. No need to add words to what my body screamed out loud.

Later, when he went to bend my fingers one by one, as he always begins his exam, he noted that there was more tension. My fingers were harder to bend. More tension in fiction is great, in my fingers, not so much.

But, I refused to give in to it. During this flare-up, I made two quilts with those hurting hands. Hands that could, once again, barely touch forefinger to thumb.

So while making this last red and white quilt, I came to a decision. I would make a concession. I would no longer do hand-stitched bindings. Instead, I would machine stitch them. And that meant I would have to cut the binding strips wider, not 2 and 1/2 inches, but 2 and 3/4 inches wide.

These days I am feeling lots better, My fingers are much more pliable, and machine stitching the bindings will speed things up, making me far more productive as I head into the holiday season.  But now, I have an exact measure as to how much this latest skirmish has cost me. How much ground I concede to RA this time.  Exactly one quarter inch.

quilt

Inspired by this site.

quilt

A wall hanging I made for my granddaughter’s first birthday. How time flies.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My Grave

It was 2004 and calamity struck. In stages. It started the previous Christmas Eve. My doctor called me. Doctors don’t call you on Christmas Eve just to say hello. My daughter needed a biopsy, ASAP, he said. She was subsequently diagnosed with invasive thyroid cancer. Something we didn’t know until the second pathology report, and that necessitated two surgeries. Two weeks apart. The surgeon had tried to leave a smidgen of thyroid, so she wouldn’t be dependent on medication for the rest of her life. She was nineteen.

By April, we’d made it through radiation treatments, and then came May. I severed the tip of one finger trying to pry the stopper off the drainage hole of a large plastic planter, with a knife. My plants always bring me a sense of peace, working with them, or just communing with them. I felt the knife go through my finger as blood spurted. I grabbed a paper towel and jammed the finger end back on. It had already gone as white as the paper towel. The ER attending had been a plastic surgeon back in India. My finger survived intact, though for many years it was excruciatingly sensitive to touch. Nerves have a long memory.

Meanwhile, I was feeling weak, having generalized pain, along with localized pain to my joints. My stamina was decreasing rapidly, making me glad for my office job. I knew that my ICU days were a thing of the past; my body could no longer sustain the hectic pace. The rheumatologist treated me for arthritis, and though he did mention the possibility of RA, he did nothing to diagnose it or treat it. In July, while leaving his office after my final visit to him, my sister called. My father, who’d been in the hospital, had died.

I dreaded the three-hour trip back home. The necessity to change flights in Houston. The need to run from one terminal to another, carrying heavy luggage along with my heavy heart. I felt I was short-changing my father, thinking about myself instead of him. But, oh the pain! In my body, and in my soul.

Upon my return, I had my PCP refer me to another rheumatologist. “This man is going to kill me,” I said. The soonest I could get an appointment was for mid-October. I hoped to make it till then.

October 3rd found me lying on an ER bed, in a scene straight from TV. I watched it all from above. Or maybe I only imagined seeing it, as I had been on the other side of that bed countless times.

It turned out not to be anything as obvious as the hammer-fall of a heart attack. No, it was something more insidious. Something that slithers toward you, with its own intrinsic ebb and flow. Something that can be innocuous or deadly. The bane of RA sufferers. Fluid.

With the passage of time, fluid had been collecting not only in my joints, but also around my heart and lungs. Till one day, I could no longer stand for the few minutes it took to shower, nor could I speak well enough to make myself understood.

The new rheumatologist’s first words, after hearing my history, made my eyes fill with even more fluid. “Don’t worry,” he said, placing his hand on my arm, “We’re going to find out what it is.”

“IT” turned out to be RA, and though he started to attack it aggressively, I continued to worsen. It had been allowed to grab a stranglehold on me, and it didn’t seem to want to let go.

I resigned my management position of the busy telephone triage department; I couldn’t keep up with all its intricacies. I remained part-time, but that did not help matters. Being tied to a desk made my hips ache so. Holding the phone to my ear while typing on a computer keyboard made my wrists and elbows scream with pain by the time my six-hour evening shift ended.

At night, I longed for the pain to subside just enough to let me sleep a little. And fearing that death was on the horizon, I retired. I had to conserve my dwindling physical and mental energies for my youngest child. It would be two more years before she went away to college. She needed me, and I needed to give her my last days.

But then, a funny thing happened on the way to my grave.

I began to get better.

On the Mend

Four weeks and counting. I must say it’s been an interesting four weeks. Filled with fire and steel. It’s amazing how exhausting constant, never-ending pain can be. Even my RA pain, as excruciating as that can be, did not last this long or keep me this down.

The surface of my bedside table became a bouquet of pill bottles. In different shapes and colors.  The pills themselves are colorful. My Elavil is pukey green. It’s supposed to mess with my brain and short-circuit the pain signals. It’s meant to derail the train tracks and send the pain-filled railroad cars off into oblivion.

Well, it’s not quite doing its job. Or at least, not as efficiently as it could.  My doctor said he would increase the strength. But, I don’t know that its side effects are worth the increase in dosage. Though, I can’t help but wonder what color that will come in.

Sleep has been my refuge. When I sleep I have no pain. Miraculously. But I can’t spend my life asleep, nor can I spend it taking narcotics for said pain. They made me dizzy, drowsy and ditsy. I’d forget what day it was; I’d forget what time it was; I’d forget what pill was next. I actually made myself a med sheet, or cheat sheet, so that I would know what was due when.

The worst side effect was having my computer screen fade out. For a nanosecond, I would be gazing at a big black hole. It was only a flash, just long enough for me to detect that void, but it was quite disturbing. This has stopped and since I stopped taking several meds at basically the same time, I don’t know which one was responsible. Or a more disturbing thought: maybe none were.

But regardless of the pain, the dizziness or the big black void, I managed to keep working. I had windows of time when my thoughts were clear, my pain dampened, and my computer screen consistently brightly lit. I gave all those good moments to the projects I was working on, and I advised everyone within “hearing” distance to get the vaccine if they could.

Unfortunately, I had to let my blogs and my blog reading languish.  Now I have a lot of catching up to do. And though shingles still demands attention, its cries are more muted and I can block its diminished fires for longer periods. I can’t extinguish them completely, only time can do that. Hopefully. But by the looks of things, I have turned the corner and am on the mend.

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.

How Do You Spell Pain?

shingles

Pain spelled with angry red bumps.

So, life caused stress, which I believe triggered RA, which caused me to have to take a drug called Methotrexate, which then caused me to be immunosuppressed, which then left me vulnerable to come down with shingles.

I think I have that right. I might have missed a few steps. All I know is that yesterday, I reached the mountain peak of stress. The pain was out of this world. I spent it drugged up with Percocet. Kept to the every six hours dosage. When I was awake I could not think due to the pain. And to relieve the pain, I knocked myself out.

Which was good in a way. It relieved the stress of knowing my daughter is in Boston. Arrived right before this horrific event happened. Walked those streets right before. God help me.

I was sitting in my doctor’s exam room while all this was happening. Upon leaving, the young nurse engaged me in conversation, wanted some advice about pursuing her career. Talking to her made me forget the pain, but upon exiting the doctor’s office I heard my husband on the phone talking about Boston. I freaked, inside.

Rarely does my stoicism fail me, but my heart was pounding as it took two attempts to reach my daughter. I envisioned myself on a plane to Boston already.

Today, I have a new stressor. She is driving back to NYC with the rest of her things and no other company than her GPS. I tell myself that when I was 22, I was married with a baby. But, no matter what I tell myself, she is still my baby.

Thankfully, I think I have crested the mountain called Agony and am on the way down the other side. What started out as a dainty little row of pink dots has morphed into an angry, red, diffused eruption. It hurts and it hurts to look at it.

But, I know it doesn’t hurt as much as the people of Boston are hurting. My daughter spent four years there and I feel an attachment to that historic town. My heart goes out to all involved.