I started to write this entry days ago. I've had to edit some things since. I was having a bad day at work. I needed to vent, and needed a break. Then a man I just met witnessed me walking slow to check the contents of a trailer, and I'm sure my face looked distressed. He asked if I was feeling okay. Now most of my life I had always answered that question with a "just fine" or "pretty good" because I was a people pleaser. These days it's mostly "great", "fantastic", or "fabulous" if my pain is low , or "you don't wanna know", "pretty frickin shitty" or something like that if pain is running high. I said to the man, "well I haven't decided", and I mentioned something about my body feeling stiff. The response was one I'd heard so many times before. It goes something like this. "Oh wait til you get to be my age and you'll know what stiff is!" He then sprinted back to his truck and hopped into his seat. I'm glad he could do that. I envied him. The fact is that I AM ALREADY VERY SICK. 2 YRS. AGO I WAS DIAGNOSED WITH AN AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE THAT WILL LAST FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE. It is in my blood. And it will continue . THERE IS NO CURE.
1. My disease is called RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS. It is NOT Osteoarthritis which is a result of wear and tear, or injury to the body.
2. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease. It means the body attacks its own healthy cells and tissues. Mainly, the membranes around the joints become inflamed and release enzymes that cause surrounding cartilage and bone to wear away. It feels like bone rubbing on bone. There was an incidence, before I was able to see a Rheumatologist, where I spent 3 days pretty much bedridden, alone, and unable to open drink or food containers or wrappers. I thought I would end up dying like that.
3. Patients often have "flu-like" symptoms such as fever, fatigue, and weakness.
4. Morning stiffness may go away in people with osteo, but in RA patients the symptoms are prolonged.
5. RA usually affects joints symmetrically, (which is my case).
6. Organs such as the heart, lungs, and eyes may be affected.
7. Most people don't understand that RA is a chronic disease. Chronic= constant, continual, ceaseless, incessant, persistent or unending. IT IS NOT GOING TO GO AWAY. There are variable symptoms, that can occur without notice. It may be intense and have an unpredictable duration. It can vary week to week, day to day, or even hour to hour. It almost seems like a person with RA is faking. I have been accused of it. I have been ridiculed and made out to seem like I'm just a cry-baby or a "PRINCESS". It's sad to endure hardships of RA only to be "laughed at or dismissed by others".
8. Diet, exercise, and supplements will not cure RA. I am on a powerful treatment plan by one of the few specialists in my area. There is a concerning shortage of Rheumatologists in America. But they SPECIALIZE in diagnosing and treating rheumatic diseases. No offense to those who suggest alternative therapies, and I continue trying alternatives, but the fact is, (DMARDS) disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, are the only thing that got me on my feet again and able to bear the pain.
. 9. Treatment is mostly trying to limit or reduce the joint damage it incurs and improve the QUALITY OF LIFE.
10. Like cancer, treatments may improve chances for remission.
11. It can develop in anyone, male or female, at any age. And it is more common in women.
12. At present time, doctors do not know what causes or triggers the disease.
13. FATIGUE is a persistent problem with RA. And even with treatment strategies, it still persists.
14. Arthritis is the leading cause of disability among adults in the U.S.
15. Numerous studies link RA and a SHORTENED LIFE SPAN. Life expectancy could be shortened by roughly 10-15 years. Complications that develop as a result of an aggresive RA disease is what puts patients at a greater risk for lower life expectancy.
16. Research has found that it isn't the disease itself that reduces life expectancy. It's the varying complications that develop because of the disease.
You can't really fathom the reality of this disease unless you have it, or are very close to or take care of someone who does. IT IS MOSTLY INVISIBLE TO OTHERS. I DON'T LOOK SICK. I've tried to explain this in a simple way to others but it's almost impossible to accomplish, probably because of how I look. I try to keep a happy go lucky attitude and look for anything to help me smile. It's more than a challenge.