Health Update

What are these antique things called blogs? Man, it's been a while!

I thought I'd give a health update, since several people have asked me about it and I'm not sure I've totally processed it all yet.

I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis this summer. For a few years I had been having these joint flares that would come and go and migrate around my body. It was so mysterious. I didn't think it was RA because it did not manifest like most people's RA, and I didn't want RA. The migrating, one sided flares threw me for a loop with all my sophisticated online self diagnosing. The first few times I thought I was injured. The doctor agreed and gave me pain meds. Then after it kept happening, I knew something was wrong. Also, for the last couple of years, I've had this sleepiness, almost getting sick feeling. I kept telling Willie, "I think I'm coming down with something". Well, I wasn't coming down with something, I had something.

The last two Decembers things were the most crazy. The end of the year is stressful for me professionally and personally. It's at these times that I drink a lot of caffeine, don't sleep very much, and eat poorly. I thought maybe I was having an overuse problem in my wrists and I would wear braces and then once things settled down, I felt better and kind of forget about it.

Last December, I had a hip flare that hurt so bad. Hip and shoulder flares are very disruptive to sleep and just about anything. So I went to the doctor and he had me take a few blood tests. When I came back elevated for two of the blood tests, I didn't know for sure what that meant. I now know that it meant I had RA. One test gives someone a 95% chance of having RA and the other test 97%, and I had both of them. I ended up meeting with a rheumatologist in January. She was so relaxed about the whole thing and hopeful that I think I misread her message. She said she was not going to diagnose me yet. I heard, "You don't have RA, but  you might someday. Keep in touch." Now I realize what she said was, "You have RA, but probably in the early stages. It's coming. Call me when it gets here."

Just when I thought, I can live with a flare ever couple of months. No big deal, it came on so strong. I had almost a month of a flare every day. It just kept moving to different joints, even my jaw, and sometimes on both sides. Having two hands out of commission is the worst! Depending on the flare, i couldn't open a jar, get out of the tub, pull my own hair back (Hank liked helping with that), get my clothes on or off, play an instrument, etc. If it was an upper body flare, I would still run, but if it was a lower body flare, I'd just try to take it easy. Also, flares hurt really bad. It makes my stomach churn with pain. It's like an infection in the joint. It can be red and hot and get so inflamed that the joint just stops working. I flinched if my kids were too close to the hurt joint. My whole body would get tense from the pain. Ibuprofen doesn't really take the edge off.  I took a narcotic pain killer once that my primary doc prescribed. My rheumatologist doesn't prescribe them. I'm not sure if it helped with the pain, but it made me so happy/sleepy/high that I didn't care if I was in pain.

I think my rock bottom was at girls camp. After so much pain, so many sleepless nights and being up in the mountains trying to sleep on a cot, I called the rheumatologist's office sobbing. At this point i dramatically changed my diet (it's an RA thing, everyone is doing it), and prepared to see the rheumatologist. She agreed it had arrived and she wanted to start treatment immediately with an immune suppressant. She said it would take about 3 months to be in full affect. Ever since then, I've been steadily improving. I strongly believe that the diet is helping and the medication. I don't want to stay on the medication my whole life, if possible, so our plan is for me to be in remission for 6 months then I can try coming off. At that point, I may need to get even stricter with my diet. Right now I don't eat gluten, dairy, or refined sugars. I do have rice and gluten free oats sometimes. If I can't keep in remission without the medication, then I will move to Paleo (removing all grains) and if that doesn't work I'll need to go to AIP (autoimmune protocol), which further cuts out nuts, seeds, eggs and nightshade vegetables. Then you try to see what you can add back in. I also met with an integrative doctor and did a delayed food allergy test and had 60 days without 22 foods that I reacted to. I'm now adding them back in and without any problems. I had to be two months off of chocolate. It seemed like the worst thing ever, but I got used to it. Now that I added chocolate back into my diet, my feelings for chocolate have changed. We used to have something so special, such a deep love, but now I'm just not that into it. So strange.

Right now I am feeling so great. I have been able to keep up with my half marathon training. The hardest part has been getting up early without going to bed early the night before to beat the heat. My joints feel great. My general feeling of sickness has lifted. I don't need caffeine. I have to pay close attention to my sleep and stress situation and the food thing has finally settled and I have plenty of good things to eat and am not bummed out about it. Thanks so much to everyone that has been concerned and inquired! I'm so lucky to have such supportive family and friends.


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