Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Lots of Celebrating!

So far the holidays have been absolutely wonderful. I will admit that even though I was excited about previous Christmases, I was not big on seeing a bunch of people and doing a lot because of anxiety or fatigue. But I had my mind made up that this Christmas would be different and I would make the most of it.

After I left work on Christmas Eve, Rommel and I went to have dinner at his cousin's house. It was so nice to catch up with everyone and see their kids. Then we headed over to his friend's house, which has been a tradition since they were little kids. The best part was watching the kids open their gifts before bed.

On Christmas day we took our time waking up, went out to get breakfast, and then opened some gifts. My parents gave Zooey a few sardines stuffed with catnip and Sunny a couple new squeaky toys. They had no idea what to do for Simba since he does not really like toys and is picky about treats, so I gave him a couple of extra treats from us.





And yes, I realize that I talk to my pets like they are babies and I sound like I big dork, but that's me.

In the afternoon Rommel, his mother, and I headed over to his uncle's house for a huge feast of Filipino food. Finally we went to another friend's house to wish them all a happy holiday. I did not fully realize how long I have cut myself off from people until someone said it had been two years since we had seen each other. We only live maybe a hour away from each other and her family always has something going on, inviting people over.

In the end, it was kind of a gift to myself to realize how much I missed participating in life. I am not looking to go out every night, but I definitely want to widen my circle.

We also stopped by an outdoor shopping center in town that has a three story Christmas tree in the middle of the square. It was absolutely amazing to see at night and wanted to share a picture. There is also a picture of Santa's house which was just adorable.



I do not know if it was the extremely busy weekend or the fact that I forgot to take my medicine on Sunday night, but Monday was my worst day yet when it comes to RA. Every inch of my body was in pain and I felt at a complete loss at what to do. I called my rheumatologist, but they could not help me because he was out of the office. I ended up calling my sister and just crying to her. Apparently I scared her because next thing I know my mom is calling me and Rommel came home early from work (a very rare occurrence). Once I was home, I was able to get a little more comfortable, but the pain was still extreme. I took the mobic that I missed the night before and within a couple of hours I was able to complete the work that I could not finish at the office.

I woke up this morning feeling semi-normal again. The funny thing is that I had just told my mom that I did not think the mobic was helping me at all when apparently it was what was preventing the pain the whole time. (My doctor finally called with a prednisone prescription late this afternoon.)

And I am so glad that I was feeling better today because it would have sucked to feel bad on my birthday! And I have to say that it was a pretty awesome birthday. I received some beautiful gifts from people I love, had lunch with great friends, and spent the evening with my hubby who left work early to be with me.

Rommel also sent me some gorgeous flowers. I am so lucky to be married to such a thoughtful, loving guy.



Friday, December 24, 2010

Things I Love Thursday, Except It's Friday

I cannot believe that tomorrow is Christmas! I am looking forward to seeing friends and family over the next few days even though my heart is breaking a little bit thinking about my parents and sister in Illinois and how much I miss them. I guess I just have to make flying home for next Christmas one of my goals for next year.

Here's some of the things I loved this week!
  • Our family holiday card turned out really well this year. I decided that I was not going to put one together this year because of the time it can take. But in the end I knew that I still really wanted our babies on a card. I used pictures of everyone that I already had and it came together fabulously.
  • I found the instructions for tiny hat ornaments on Arian Armstrong's blog and decided to make some to go with my holiday cards. They turned out pretty well.


  • One of the older gentlemen I work with always gives me a present at the holidays because he is constantly asking me to do favors for him at work (mostly having to do with the computer because he has never used one). Of course I would do the work anyway because I adore him and his wife. Sometimes the gifts are a little out of left field, although always appreciated. This year he gave me a very interesting bracelet, which is awesome because I am so into eclectic jewelry right now.

  • I watched quite a few movies over the last few days since it rained and rained and rained all week. One thing I really like about instant streaming movies with Netflix is that I can find obscure documentaries that I love. Here's a few a little info on the ones I enjoyed this week:


I absolutely loved Exit Through the Gift Shop: A Banksy Film, which is about the street art culture. It focuses on a man named Thierry Guetta who immigrated from France. After filming his cousin, Invader, place his artwork around France, Guetta becomes obsessed with filming street artists, including Shepard Fairy who created the famous Obama/Hope poster. But it was not the story of Guetta that I enjoyed (many people wonder if the film was a true story or another work by Banksy). What I loved about the film was witnessing these artists plan out their works and attempt to display them in public without getting caught.

At the end of the film, Guetta begins calling him Mr. Brainwash and constructs his own art show. I honestly did not like his work and wondered if it could even be considered art. Is it really art if you hire graphic artists to create a piece using your "vision"? Is it really art if you take another artist's piece and tweak it?

When You're Strange: A Film About the Doors was an an interesting take on the band and the larger than life figure that was Jim Morrison. The film included quite a bit of footage from a film Morrison made that was never released to the public. I honestly thought it was an actor portraying Morrison until I read the film info. I am always curious about people's stories and definitely enjoyed the film, but it definitely makes you wonder what would have happened to the band if Jim Morrison had not died at 27. Would they have just faded away instead of becoming such as huge piece of rock and roll in the sixties.
Blood into Wine is a documentary about Maynard James Keenan, lead singer of Tool, and Eric Glomski and their endeavor to establish a winery in Arizona. I am not a wine fan myself, but everything that goes into the complicated process of producing a successful wine is crazy interesting. Plus there is the element of growing grapes in an area not known for it and the stigma of being a rock star with a hobby.
  • And of course spending time with family! Rommel was able to leave work early on Thursday, so we were able to go out to eat and browse a couple of vintage places. I am still a little uncomfortable in restaurants, probably because there are not a lot of distractions, but I was not anxious and that is a little victory for me.


Happy Holidays Everyone!!!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Muscle Pain & New Meds

I am not even sure how to describe the last two weeks. I have been experiencing more and more muscle pain and I woke up last Wednesday feeling the worst of it. I went to work even though I was fighting off tears because there were things that had to be done. I decided that I would walk to urgent care next door as soon as everything was finished since I knew it would be impossible to get in to see my rheumy.

Luckily I was able to get in to see my primary that morning. He ended up giving me a pain killer and prescribing Celebrex in addition to my other RA meds. My rheumy agreed with the Celebrex but insurance would not cover it, so they prescribed mobic instead. Out of all the crazy, complicated names there are for medications, the simple ones like mobic scare me the most. It is too small of a word for all the symptoms it can relieve and all the side effects it can create.

He also wants me to go back to physical therapy, which I am not really sure about. It definitely helped for the short time I went, which was about six months ago, but it was not long before I was in pain again. I made the initial appointment and the morning I was supposed to go I received a bill for $150.00 to cover what insurance would not pay for from six months ago. Of course the office could not tell me anything about it, but assured me I would only have to pay the co-pay for my current appointment. I still went to the appointment and I felt great for the rest of the day. A week later and I am fighting off the tears again.

I have been going back and forth between the physical therapy office and the insurance company to get that $150.00 paid. It seems that the office billed the insurance for three separate codes for each visit and the insurance understood that to be three separate visits. So my six authorized visits did not go very far.

Hopefully it will work out, which means it would be more probable that I could afford the $75.00 fee each visit costs since I now have a deductible that has to be paid off.

It basically just sucks. Of course the pain is awful, but the popping and grinding coming from my joints is unnerving as well. And I could be taking the pain killers instead of whining over things, but I am just really uncomfortable with taking yet another pill.

Now that the complaints are out of the way and I have released all that negativity, I am looking forward to having tomorrow off to rest and wrap a couple of things for some coworkers. Then I just have to get through working Friday before having two days off in a row. Yup, I said TWO DAYS OFF IN A ROW. It has been a long time since that has happened.

Plus there is Christmas and my birthday and gingerbread houses and time with the hubby! So much to look forward to!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Things I Love Thursday!

I have so many things to write about, but my pain level has been insane lately and I have not felt like sitting in front of the computer. But I definitely wanted to write about the things I am loving at the moment and brighten the day a little.

I was browsing Cake's website and found a link to an article on Jason de Caires Taylor, an artist who creates life size sculptures of people and places them underwater off the coast of South America.


There are even more examples on Taylor's web site, including works with crowds of people. It's kind of eerie seeing these frozen figures on the bottom of the ocean, like you are witnessing something that you should not. But his work becomes increasingly beautiful as it becomes part of the underwater environment. Definitely check it out!

I am also loving The Black Keys latest album, Brothers. It's loud and raw and definitely sexy. You can catch a video of them playing live at KCRW that it great. They play a bunch of the songs from their new album and there is a short interview in the middle of the recording. I think that it is available until the end of December.

I just finished reading Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison by Piper Kerman. She served a year in a federal prison for a drug-related crime that she committed ten years beforehand. It was a really interesting story; one of those stories that make you appreciate what you have no matter how small, like not having to wear shower shoes.

I loved the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy by Stieg Larsson and there was a great article in this month's Rolling Stone magazine on the mystery surrounding the author. The same issue included the last interview that John Lennon did before his tragic death. It is another example of why he is one of my favorite musicians. (I could not provide a link to either article because they require a membership to access it - sorry!)

I am so happy that all the holiday cards have been mailed and presents have been wrapped. I wrapped most of the gifts in brown wrapping with beautiful ribbon and bows. But I also found the fabulous gnome wrapping paper at IKEA and used it to wrap the gifts I sent home for my parents, my sister, and my sister's boyfriend.


I am adoring all the wonderful holiday cards Rommel and I are receiving in the mail too! Everyday I find another card with a beautiful family on it, all of which make us smile.

As you can tell by my profile pic, I am into hats lately. I recently picked up this cute number with a bow at Urban Outfitters. I definitely think that it will get a lot of use this winter.


I have been attracted to costume jewelry where living creatures are the subject matter. I found this beetle pendant the other day and I could not resist a five dollar price tag.


Maybe it's the fact that I have a birthday coming up and just want to feel younger, but I am also loving hair bows. They are just so much fun and I can use some of that right now.


And finally, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly singing Peace On Earth / Little Drummer Boy from Funny or Die.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Things I Love Thursday!

I was inspired to participate in "Things I Love Thursday" by Gala Darling quite a while ago, but one day I just stopped for some reason. It is definitely time to start making my list again!

Of course Gala Darling's website is one of my favorite things. It is a fun and empowering site about style, happiness, and finding adventure in the world.

Another website that I am obsessed with is Etsy, which is a website for people to sell handmade and vintage items. I especially love the geekery section where you can find everything from domino cuff links to tetris soap. I can start browsing the pages and before I know it time has flown by.

For awhile there I was all about t-shirts and yoga pants, but I feel like I am starting to get my groove back and wanting to look fabulous. I have been all about the jewelry this week, especially jewelry that involves owls. I just found a great ring on Etsy that has an owl head and wings made of pewter. I cannot wait to get it in the mail.

I also found this blingy ring at Target for about five bucks. Oh Target, how I love you!


Wrapping and giving gifts! Tomorrow is Rommel's birthday and he is the worst person shop for because he buys himself whatever he wants. When I try to ask him what he wants, he always says "I have you, that's everything I want." So cute, but so frustrating. But I think that I managed to find the perfect gift today. After wrapping his gift, I started on some Christmas presents that I had hidden away. This year I decided to wrap everything in brown paper and then use beautiful ribbon for the bows. I have to say that they look pretty darn good.


I am also loving a computer program called Malware Bytes. My dad suggested it to get rid of the virus that Norton could not pick up took over my laptop. Thank god it worked because I really did not want to be the downfall of a second computer this year.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Busy Weekend

After struggling to get through work on Saturday, I had my mind set on attending our local Christmas parade. We planned on meeting a friend to grab dinner and find a sit somewhere along the parade route. Unfortunately I forgot how crazy it gets and we had to park several blocks away. First mistake - I wore my fake uggs to keep my feet nice and warm, but they are not very good for walking any type of distance. We finally got to the pizzeria and had a bite before the parade actually started, but we were too late to find a place up front. Second mistake - we did not bring any chairs and ended up standing behind several people to see anything. Maybe fifteen minutes into the parade and my feet were in serious pain. I did my little dance hoping from foot to foot, but most people just thought I was moving to the music of the fifteen different marching bands that performed in the parade.

After about an hour I began to pray for the end of the parade, but it just kept going. Our local public television station always broadcasts the parade and they had a little booth that details the parade for the viewers. They definitely took their time, so they had to stall the parade every few floats to prevent a backup. And then it started to get cold and my hands ached just sitting in my pockets. Third mistake - I was not paying attention and dropped my gloves on the walk to the parade. At some point we all decided to start walking back to our cars because I hurt everywhere and my friend's daughter was tired.

Despite all that complaining though, I was glad we went. The small main street covered in twinkling lights was beautiful and would put anyone into the holiday mood. We got to see a helicopter fly by several times with Santa waving out the side of it. Several of the local schools had marching bands that participated and I was amazed that the middle schools were so good. The best part was seeing all the children that participated. A local Korean group had their children in traditional dress and they were all so lovely, especially the really little ones. Plus I was able to spend time with my friend and her little girl, which is always a treat.

Today we decided we would take the dogs for a short walk and stop to have Sunny's nails clipped at the mobile vet clinic because I am way to nervous to do it myself. They were so happy to be out that they completely exhausted themselves pulling us along.

Then we headed to the Art from the Ashes exhibit. They are a non-profit organization that shows the work of local artists to benefit communities and individuals that have been affected by fire. From what I understand, the donations the gallery makes from visitors goes to charities and the artists receive exposure and a chance to sell their work. I know that the last exhibition raised enough money to replace signs in a local wilderness area that was destroyed in the Station fire last summer.

There were more than forty artists participating, each exhibiting several pieces. Many of the artists incorporated burnt remains, such as metal and glass, into their work. One of my favorites was one that used a large forked section of a tree that had been charred. The artist made it into a standing piece with two hanging lamps. Gorgeous. My favorite artist was probably Valery Milovic. Her work has a dark loveliness about it, if that even make any sense.

Obviously I could not take pictures inside the gallery, but I wanted to include something so I took some of the neon art outside the gallery.




We finished the day at the Disney store to pick up a toy for the toy drive we are having at work. Then we hung some Christmas lights outside and brought out the BBQ.

It was a completely exhausting and at times painful weekend, but definitely a good one.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Nope, Not Doing It, Never Again

This morning I took Zooey to the vet to get spayed. I called Rommel as soon as I left and told him that he would be the one taking her to the vet from now on. I have taken other cats to the vet without a problem and the dogs get anxious but behave pretty well. But oh my god, Zooey was absolutely breaking my heart. She just cried and cried and cried. I seriously thought I would break down in tears at one point, but I also knew it was for the best. It was even worse when I picked her up. I could hear her before they even opened the door. The vet tech told me that she had been quite upset since the surgery, but they knew she was not in pain so it must just be stress.

At least she is home now and after a few hours alone in the spare room, she seems to be feeling better. She even wanted to play a little with a ribbon. I am still not taking her back to the vet myself unless it is an emergency. That is now on Rommel's list of responsibilities.

Other than that dramatic experience, the rest of the day was pretty run of the mill. I ran some errands, crossed some more Christmas presents off the list, and even tried to take a nap.

I also finally admitted to myself that I did want to have Sunny, Simba, and Zooey on our holiday cards. They are my children and I like to show them off! So I returned the cards I bought and went online to design some cards. I found a really great template that has six different picture spots that make up a Christmas tree. But having so many spots for pictures meant I needed to fill them up with more than just pictures of our pets, so I began searching for pictures. Pictures of the animals is no problem; I am always taking shots of them. Pictures of Rommel was a little harder. He tends to make the same goofy face in every picture I try to take of him and I definitely do not want to send that mug out to every person we know. I eventually found one of him and Sunny that was pretty cute. Then came the hardest picture to find - me. It's not that I avoid having my picture taken, even though I will admit that I do not really like it. I am just usually the one taking the pictures. After going through almost every photo I have, I finally ended just taking a new picture of myself. The even funnier part is that I actually kind of like it. I am excited to pick them up tomorrow and will post a copy closer to Christmas.

Then a bunch of random warnings and viagra ads began popping up on my computer. I try to be really careful about what I open, but apparently I am never careful enough and this is the second computer I have used this year that has freaked out due to a virus. I guess I should just be happy it was not my work computer this time.

Time to check on Zoe Zoe and then crash. Talk to ya later.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Losing Momentum ...

I don't know if it was the craziness of the holidays, stress at work, or the cold weather, but I am really feeling it. I spent all of Sunday either sleeping or just feeling down right sucky with a headache and nausea. Yesterday was even worse getting through eight hours of work and I was dying to go back to bed when I finally got home. Unfortunately with all the crap on the floor in my bedroom, I did not notice that I had knocked over the humidifier at some point that morning. So instead of getting under the covers, I proceeded to muster up the drive to clean our bedroom.

Pushing myself yesterday has left me in even worse shape today. Joints and muscles that I did not even know existed are screaming in pain. And the popping! I sound like a human pop corn machine the way my joints are popping and crunching.

At least I managed to pack up my dad's birthday present and with any luck he will get it in time.

Now to bed and if I don't feel any better tomorrow, maybe having Thursday off will help.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving!

Rommel and I had a pretty relaxed Thanksgiving, which is exactly what I was looking forward to. After sleeping in as late as I could, which was about nine, we went for a walk to pick up coffee and something for breakfast. We also grabbed a newspaper because Rommel wanted to check out the sales even though I think you would have to be insane to fight those crowds. (Despite my best intentions, we ended up hitting some sales on Friday and Saturday after work. It wasn't too crazy, but god, it was exhausting.)


Then we started the charcoal for the turkey. I ended up doing it all myself because I am a control freak like that and wanted it done right. That did not work out so well. Even after adding charcoal every hour for five hours, etc, I could not get the temperature of the turkey above 160. We finally brought it inside and while some parts of the turkey were cooked, other parts were not. We ended just nuking what we wanted to eat and settling in for our meal. It wasn't great, but we might try it again with some adjustments.


While the turkey was cooking, I worked on clearing out the garage so Rommel could get all the Christmas decorations down. I usually hit up the after Christmas sales every year and it's amazing how much I have accumulated that I completely forgot I had. For example, after deciding that I did not want to put the dogs through Christmas pictures, I bought Christmas cards at the bookstore. Then digging through my Christmas stuff, I found at least ten boxes of Christmas cards.

We put up the Christmas tree, hung all the ornaments, and did a little decorating inside the house. But now that I am looking at the picture I took of the Christmas, I am realizing that it is kind of lopsided. I might have to work on the tree a little bit more. Hopefully we will get to the outside lights this weekend.

Even with all the decorating and Christmas shopping we ended up doing, I managed to finish the most important item on my list - the baby blanket for my friend. I had intended to finish it by the time she was born, but I started crocheting it around the same time I began to have a lot of pain in my hands. It ended up being a very slow process, but I managed to get it done by the time she turned six months. I was so glad my friend loved it and hopefully her daughter will hold onto for a long time.



I am extremely happy that I have tomorrow to recover from the last few days. I definitely enjoyed every minute of the holiday, but I am also feeling it. Between the cold and being so busy, my hands and feet are incredibly achy. It will be nice to take it easy tomorrow and see if it helps relieve some of the pain before work on Monday.

I hope everyone had an amazing holiday weekend!

Having a holiday flag in front of our house makes me feel way too domestic, but it was too cute to pass up.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Justification ?

My husband and I decided to take a short walk to some local shops the other day. I was hoping the movement would provide some relief for the achiness the cold weather was causing my hips and knees. We walked into the first store planning to head to the second floor when I noticed the yellow tape letting customers know the escalator was out of service. The other escalator was turned off so people could use it to walk up to the second floor. Apparently my husband recognized the look on my face that says "that is going to cause me pain" and he began looking for the elevator. I was definitely relieved because I was in enough pain that I would have rather left the store than walk up those stairs.

We found the elevator and while waiting for it two women with a cart came up to wait next to us. I was probably just paranoid, but I felt like they were giving me a weird look like they were wondering why a healthy looking woman was taking the elevator instead of the stairs. I could not help feeling like they were judging me. When we eventually got on the elevator, I felt compelled to mention out loud how the cold weather caused my knees pain or something so they would know I was not being lazy.

I know that I should not let it bother me, but even a few days later, I am still thinking about it. I guess it is just one of those things you have to get used to when you have an "invisible" illness.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Random Thoughts ...

I watched the American Music Awards last night, which honestly was not very good but I am far from being a Justin Bieber, Usher, or Keisha fan. I somehow made it to the end of the show and who should appear on the stage? NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK!!!

I was so in love with them in the fifth grade, especially Donnie because he was the bad boy of the group. I remember when they had a concert at a local stadium and everyone I knew seemed to be going, but my parents refused to buy tickets so that my younger sister and I could go too. They forced us to go out to dinner the night of the concert even though we were still holding a huge grudge (because this is a life and death matter when you are ten/eleven years old). We ended up in the stadium parking lot. They had bought tickets but wanted to surprise us. I think I even have pictures somewhere.

Not long after the concert, Donnie broke my heart when he was caught with an underage girl at some hotel and proceeded to light the curtains on fire.

Anyway, now I cannot get "The Right Stuff" or "Step by Step" out of my head.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Rainy Weather and Other Stuff

I grew up in the Midwest where there are definitive seasons throughout the year, so the constantly sunny weather in California can get a bit monotonous. The recent cold, rainy weather is a nice break and makes it feel a little more like the holidays. Give me a good blanket and I am usually a happy camper, but since developing RA, I am definitely feeling that fifty-six degree cold in my joints. (My parents would so make fun of me for complaining about it being fifty-six degrees, which is nothing to them.) Not only do my hands and feet hurt, but every other joint in my body is aching too. It's like I just cannot warm up or get comfortable.

At least I started my knew medication today, which is called sulfazine. The doctor wants to try this before trying mtx again. From what I read the most common side effect is stomach issues, which is a little funny to me considering they also use sulfazine to treat IBS. But the pharmacist said that the pills are now coated so there should not be too much nausea. The two things that I was told to remember were to wear plenty of sunscreen because of sun sensitivity and drink lots of water. We'll give it a couple of months, have another blood test, and see if anything changed.

I also called the weight loss program that the doctor mentioned. Yes, it is doctor supervised. Yes, a very small portion may be covered by insurance. But I do not really have an extra $4500 in my bank account to throw around. I also wonder about their methods, which includes a six week liquid diet and then the transition back to solid food over the remaining weeks. I did quite a bit of research about the program and people do lose A LOT of weight in a very short period of time, but it sounds like people have a hard time keeping it off. Honestly, the only upside I could find to the whole thing was not having to think about what you are going to eat for twelve weeks. But I would still have to think about what my husband is going to eat.

So I was thinking I might just start green smoothies again. It is honestly the easiest way to get a lot of good things into my diet that I normally would not eat.

Anyway, I do not know anyone who wants to think about weight loss during the holidays and I am definitely ready for the holidays! I was originally going to order a pre-made Thanksgiving dinner for my husband, mother-in-law, and I, but that changed. I happened to mention that a coworker cooks her turkey on a charcoal grill and Rommel got all excited about the idea. I finally agreed that we could try it this year, which means that I will be cooking the turkey on the grill and Rommel will watch me. But he will be cute doing it!

I am also ready to get the Christmas decorations out. I got a great deal on a new artificial tree at work and it is sitting in the living room begging for ornaments. I just need to convince Rommel to dig everything out of the garage since it is a little to difficult for me.

Then I need to get some pictures of the fur babies for our Christmas card. They looked so cute last year, I hope I can top it this year. The wild card will be Zooey, our six month old kitten. She has definitely gone through some changes in the last couple weeks and seems feistier than ever. She was supposed to be spayed a couple of weeks ago, but just happened to go into heat a few days beforehand. We did not want to complicate the surgery even more, so we had to push it back a little. I think everyone in the house in glad she is past her "phase" now because she was driving us all a little crazy. We tryed to make her comfortable, but she just kept wandering around the house crying nonstop. Then one morning I woke up to her biting my feet and knew it was over. Now we are dealing with the fact that she has finally discovered the doggie door. It's always something! But I cannot say it enough - get your pets fixed people!


Anything else? Oh yeah, sparkly shoes! They may not be the most comfortable shoes, but if I cannot wear hot heels anymore, then by god, I am going to wear fabulous tennies. I have actually been looking for these forever, but Converse only made them for little girls. Then I walked into a store the other day and a glowing light shined down on them from above. Okay, maybe I am exaggerating a little, but they are AWESOME.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Running Around and Around

So much for a day off! I had so many errands today that it was just as exhausting as a full day of work.

I headed out early this morning for my hypnotherapy session. We talked about working on keeping my anxiety level low when I am in crowded places, like the mall or a concert. As for what we actually covered, I could not tell you because I went completely under. Usually I am aware of the hypnotist talking while I visualize things. This time I remember hearing little bits here and there, but ended up asking how long I had been there. I swear it felt like I had taken a short nap, but it was actually about forty-five minutes.

Next I headed to the bookstore. I love the program I belong to at the bookstore and I had great coupons to put to use. I picked up a few cds because it has been quite a while since I updated my music collection and wanted something I could dance around the house to. I also found a book on things to do in Los Angeles. I think a lot of people would be surprised to know how few local points of interest I have been to considering I have lived in LA for almost seven years. But now that I am feeling more confident about my anxiety, I have an extremely long list of places to hit up.

I could not help stopping at Old Navy since it was next to the bookstore. I am not an extremely frugal person, but how can you not love Old Navy's clearance section, especially when it is an extra 50% off! I found two sweaters, two button up shirts, and two adorable tank tops and I got them all for less than forty bucks. Love it!

Then I had my second appointment with Dr. Zen, my new rheumatologist. I did have to wait quite a bit longer in the waiting room, but I really do think it was worth it. Once again the physician's assistant was great. She noticed the book I was reading when she walked in and we ended up talking about books for the first several minutes. Then she took the time to go over everything I wanted to talk about. I know they say to limit your questions to about three, but there are been so many new issues that I could not cut my list down. So the results of my rheumy appointment are as follows:
  • Even though my pain is bearable and not necessarily constant, I am dealing with pain in more joints than before, including my shoulders and neck.
  • My blood tests show that my inflammation levels are still extremely high.
  • I received a new prescription, which of course I cannot remember the name of. He said it was like mtx, but not as intense. As soon as I get it back from the pharmacist I will let you know what it is.
  • He mentioned my weight, which I know is an issue. But instead of just telling me to exercise, which can be more difficult when dealing with RA, he suggested a weight loss program. It sounds kind of like a version of weight watchers that is supervised by doctors. I will call and see what it is all about, but as always, the cost will be a big factor. So we'll see.
Then to the pharmacist, Costco, the grocery store, and I stopped by Starbucks to treat myself to a hot chocolate.

I ended up dragging myself in the house about five and absolutely could have crashed, but there is always more to do! I made dinner and finished up a couple of other little things.

At last I am sitting on the couch, watching The Solitary Man with Michael Douglas. I think that I will work on my friend's baby blanket for a while. It is taking forever to crochet this blanket because I have to stop when my hands get bad, but it will be worth it.

All in all, I definitely have to say that it was a really good day, tiring, but good.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

RA update ...

I had an appointment with my rheumatologist, who I shall call Dr. Pretend to Listen, scheduled for October, but I was having quite a bit more pain so they were able to fit me in early. I had typed up a whole page of notes detailing all of the new issues I have been having, such as pain in my hips. She casually glanced at it and then stuffed it into my file. She asked a couple of questions, but I could basically tell that she had already decided what she wanted to do, which was prescribing methotrexate. She did not explain the drug at all. Instead she relied on a piece of paper detailing the side effects of mtx, which frankly just scared the shit out of me. I did try to voice my concerns and ask more questions, but as far as she was concerned the appointment was over.

I went home feeling defeated and scared of my new prescription. I could not help but question whether I was at the point where I needed to take such a serious drug, but the doctor knows best, right? I tried to read as much as I could about mtx and plan for the possible side effects the best I could, which I detailed in previous posts. But honestly all I managed to do was freak myself out even more.

I took my first dose just before bed on a Saturday night. I woke up a hour later with my heart pounding and progressed into a full blown panic attack. I could not help but wonder if I made myself vomit, could I get the poison I had taken out of my system? And I did try, but I was not able to throw up. Eventually the anxiety wore me out and I fell back to sleep.

I slept a lot on Sunday, but felt descent and actually thought maybe the side effects would not be too bad for me. Then I woke up on Monday and realized that I was very wrong. I was sick to my stomach, my whole body hurt, and I wanted to crawl back into bed. I continued to feel that way the rest of the week and by Friday I had also come down with the flu. I called Dr. Pretend to Listen and she advised me to skip a week of the mtx so I could get over the illness.

Luckily I was on vacation the next week while my parents were in town because I still felt horrible. I did not want to eat anything but felt sick if I did not. I had a fever and felt like I was on fire if I exerted any energy at all. It was definitely a good time to have my mom around.

About three weeks passed before I felt “normal” again. The worst part is that I know the anxiety added to my reaction to the mtx. But who was supposed to calm my fears about taking it? My doctor sure did not care.

So I set out to find a new rheumy and searched the internet for any information I could on the doctors in the area that accepted my insurance. I finally chose one, I will call him Dr. Zen, and made an appointment. I asked my mom to go with me since she was still in town and I wanted someone to “have my back”. We walked into the small waiting room and were greeted by a lovely receptionist who was hanging up Halloween decorations. I took this as a good sign, not just because I love Halloween, but because it made everything seem lighter. After a short wait, they lead me into an examination room and within about five minutes the physician’s assistant came in. She had a motherly quality about her and I felt very comfortable speaking with her. When I told her about the mtx, she told me that there are negative side effects, but how widely used and effective it is. She explained that she had previously worked in pediatric rheumatology and knew plenty of children that had taken mtx. But she also let me know that there were other options out there. I felt so grateful for finding someone who not only explained things, but was also positive. If I did have to take mtx again, speaking with her would definitely make me feel more confident about it. She went to speak with Dr. Zen and they came right back in the room. He agreed with me that I was not quite at the point to take mtx and wanted me to continue on the plaquenil for right now. He explained everything to me and asked if I had any questions.

And I knew that I had found my new rheumy.

I have another appointment with Dr. Zen tomorrow for routine stuff, but I also have had a lot of shoulder and neck pain that I would like to talk to him about. Plus the air conditioning at work is bothering my hands and feet more and more.

It is definitely a good feeling not dreading seeing my doctor like I did with Dr. Pretend to Listen.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Be gone with you anxiety!

I have been meaning to write a post for a while now, especially since I have such good news to share.

Rheumatoid Arthritis has caused difficulties in my life, but anxiety has definitely been more limiting for me. I have had an anxiety disorder for about fifteen years and in a way I have "flares" of anxiety just like I do with RA. At times I may not experience any anxiety, other times I may be in a constant state of panic.

When my anxiety is high, I tend to limit activities outside of the house, at one point not even going to the grocery store. I also limit the amount of people in my life, not because I don't want them to know about the anxiety but because I do not want to disappoint them when my anxiety gets in the way of something. Because of this, my life is extremely focused around our home and I am very emotionally dependent on my husband.

Over the last year, I began to get anxious when Rommel would have an event for work, which happens A LOT. He has been so wonderful about getting out of events and trying to spend more time at home. I have also been working on becoming more comfortable with him being away because I know that it is completely unfair for him to feel guilty for being at work or out with his friends.

But the one thing I have really been dreading is a business trip and we both knew that there would come a time when he could not get out of one. He had mentioned a short trip in the beginning of December and I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to make some progress. So I made an appointment to work with a hypnotist that I have seen in the past.

I felt pretty good that I would have a few sessions done before his trip. Little did I know that the night before my first session Rommel would tell me he suddenly had a trip scheduled the next week. I felt like a bomb had gone off in my head and a millions of questions began popping up, none of them positive. I kept telling myself that this was a good thing, the challenge I needed, but I was completely terrified.

I went to my session and we worked on how I could calm down when I did get anxious. I felt pretty good when we were done and expected to make an appointment for the next week while Rommel would be out of town. But she told me to wait the normal two weeks because she was confident that I would not have any problems, plus I could call her as much as I needed too.

As his trip grew closer, I definitely felt more of a sense of calm than I normally would, which was already an improvement. The day he was due to fly out was definitely the most difficult though. I distracted myself with work and kept reminding myself to take deep breaths. But inside I really, really wanted to beg Rommel to not to go.

I woke up around four the first morning he was gone and my heart began to race. My first thought was "oh god, here we go" and I wanted to call Rommel. But then I reminded myself that he was sleeping comfortably in his hotel room. As the anxiety grew inside me, I told myself that the anxiety would not hurt me, which is not a way I have looked at it before. And instead of suffering through panic attack after panic attack like I have in the past, I fell back to sleep.

I woke up later that morning and the first thing to go through my mind was that song at the end of every Dora the Explorer - "We did it, we did it, we did it, hooray!" (I obviously watched a lot of cartoons with my nephews.)

The rest of the time went pretty quickly and I made it through all the little bumps that came up. I was expecting him home late the last day, but he called me from the airport early in the morning because his office needed him to come in. And when I hung up that phone, I let out a long breath knowing that I held made it.

I floated through the rest of the day, not just proud of myself but also excited for the future. Because the truth is that I cut so many things out of my life that I used to enjoy and avoided things that had the possibility of bringing joy to my life. It was easier to limit my experiences than to find joy in something and have the anxiety ruin it. Plus the fear of having an anxiety attack has kind of worn me down and I grew pretty comfortable in my little bubble. But coming through such a big anxiety-producing situation unscathed, I feel like dipping my toes in the water or maybe even cannonball in.

And even knowing that there will be more bumps, I am really looking forward to what the future holds. I am making a list of all the things I want to go out and do that I would not have been willing to do a couple of weeks ago. There is even a concert in December that would be amazing to go to, which might be pushing it a little since even the mall causes me anxiety. But concerts used to be one of my favorite things to do and maybe they will be again.

I also know that I need to reach out to more people. I love Rommel dearly, but becoming so dependent on him is part of the reason I get so anxious without him around. So I also have found a couple of book clubs that are meeting in December. I figure that they would be a good place to start since I spend a HUGE amount of time reading.

Here's to finding joy in new experiences!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

You can rest easy now people, I'm back ...

At the beginning of October, my parents flew out from Illinois to stay with my husband and I for a week. We spent the whole time relaxing, going to local restaurants and shops, and working on the house. I was able to get all the sleep I needed and take better care of myself by eating real, home cooked food, both of which gave me the energy to help complete a lot of home projects.

It has been so long since I have felt like myself, but the time off of work and with my family allowed me to feel like me and not some depressing slob. It reminded me that I am so much more than this disease. It may be a part of my life, but it is not my whole life.

So I have decided that I am going to keep up with my blog and write about my experience with Rheumatoid Arthritis, but also about everything else. There is so much more to my life!

Since our vacation I have been doing pretty well. I have been experiencing pain, but I have also been pushing myself to keep active by working around the house or at least cooking dinner (and it had been awhile since I had done that).

So here are some pictures of what has been going on in my world -


My parents helped us put up a new gate so we no longer have to park one car on the street, which can be a serious pain when there is street sweeping two days a week.


My dad, Rommel, and the dogs were so exhausted from the gate and other projects that they crashed in front of the TV for a full day of football.


We grilled out a lot and it was soooooo good. My mom also tried to make our garden look decent since I have not spent any time working on it this summer. We found a wonderful nursery not far from our house and I literally could have spent hours there. We ended up leaving with some mums and zinnias which are gorgeous.


I had to get a picture of my parents and Rommel posing in front of the new gate!


Then there was Halloween, which is probably my favorite holiday. I made over a hundred chocolate covered oreos for work. They were quite heavy on chocolate, but no one fell into a sugar coma. I also made meatballs, but I did not think anyone would want to see a picture of those. They did win second place though.


My mom made this adorable mouse for me. She is so incredibly talented! I told her that she really needs to make some dressed as Santa too.


Finally, a picture of me dressed as Lucille Ball.

I do have some news on the RA front, including finding a new doctor, but I will write about that another time.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Burned Out

I had a really bad two weeks after taking my first, and last, dose of MTX. Then my husband and I had an amazing week off which we spent working on the house with my parents. I have spent the last week missing my parents, but feeling pretty energetic. Then today the temperature dropped and my hands and feet have rebelled against me.

I was feeling so good for a while there and then wham, my body lets me know that I should not get too comfortable. So I am a little tired and a little depressed, but mostly just burned out. I have not felt like reading my favorite blogs, let alone writing my own.

So for now I am going to curl up in the comfy footy pajamas my husband got me and hide for a while.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

You know you have moved up in the world

when you find yourself owning one of these beautiful pieces of work.


Yes every box is full, but that includes supplements which I will take separately from my prescriptions so they do not interfere with them. Now I just need to remember to take everything throughout the day. I had a hard enough time remembering to take my plaquenil in the evening.

And just for fun - a picture of Zooey. She was obviously very overwhelmed with watching me fill up my new pill box. Not even six months old and my sarcastic nature has already rubbed off on her.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Preparations

I have been feeling so miserable that I moved my rheumy appointment up a month. I will write about how the actual appointment went in another post, but I ended up leaving the office with a prescription for methotrexate.

I knew methotrexate would be the next step if plaquenil was not doing the job, but I was not really prepared to walk out with the prescription. It's a serious drug and quite a bit of what I have read about methotrexate is truly scary stuff. The phamplet the doctor gave did little to settle my nerves either, especially when it began with "used to treat cancer" and "forced abortion for ectopic pregnancies."

Instead of going online and reading all the drug descriptions and side effects, the first thing I did was log onto RA Chicks. I figured that reading women's first hand experiences with methotrexate would be the best place to start. The number one thing I took away from the forums was that taking it is a question of whether the benefits outweigh the side effects.

Then I went to Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior, which has a large section specifically on methotrexate. It was probably the best resource I have found to prepare me for taking methotrexate and definitely helped to calm me down.

After all my reading, I decided the best way to approach taking methotrexate is preparation. Obviously I cannot control how I will react to the drug, although they say those who expect the worst side effects are more likely to suffer from them, but I can try to make things as comfortable and easy as possible for myself.

So this is what I have done or am going to do before my first dose (a lot of these came from RA Warrior):
  • Prescription for folic acid to take daily
  • I got my first flu shot.
  • Omeprazole magnesium (generic Prilosec) in case of heartburn, etc.
  • Pink bismuth tablets (generic Pepto-Bismol) in case of nausea.
  • Peppermint candy in case of metallic taste and nausea.
  • Crackers and other comforting foods for an upset stomach.
  • Cleaning - I have been trying to get on top of my cleaning so that I do not have to worry about it as much next week if I do not feel well. Swiffer and disinfectant wipes have become my new best friends.
  • I have also been getting a little crazy about preventing infections, which I have read is important to do when on methotrexate. I loaded up on antibacterial hand gel and even bought one of those touchless soap dispensers.
I am going to take my first dose on Saturday evening. I know that sounds like a bummer of a weekend, but it will work out best for me. I will take it before I go to bed because they say you can sleep through the worst of the side effects and it will be far enough away from the time I take my other medications that they will not interact. Then I have Sunday off, so I can lounge in bed all day if I feel like it. I will also have my very own nurse, otherwise known as my husband.

I realize that my plans probably sound a little much, but since I started making them my anxiety level has gone down a little. And if I do happen to have a bad day on Sunday, then I will have everything I will need to take care of myself.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

30 Things You May Not Know About My Invisible Illness

I found out about Invisible Illness Week, which happens to be this week, on Nessie's blog lipstick, perfume, and too many pills. After reading some of the articles and watching a couple of videos, I knew I wanted to participate.

The first way I decided to participate was to fill out "30 things you may not know about my invisible illness."

1. The illness I live with is: Rheumatoid Arthritis
2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: 2010
3. But I had symptoms since: 2009
4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is: realizing that I will have to physically pay for anything I do. If I do too much around the house, I might be exhausted for the next couple of days. If I work in the garden, I will be in pain for hours or days.
5. Most people assume: I'm complaining and it can't be that bad.
6. The hardest part about mornings are: still being exhausted after a full night's sleep
7. My favorite medical TV show is: House
8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is: laptop - blogs are a big part of letting me know I am not alone in this
9. The hardest part about nights are: trying to fall asleep when I am uncomfortable due to pain
10. Each day I take __ pills & vitamins. (No comments, please) 11
11. Regarding alternative treatments I: am completely open and looking, but I have realized that I must also embrace conventional treatments to prevent joint/bone problems in the future
12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: I honestly don't know.
13. Regarding working and career: I love the people I work with and being busy. There is also the fact that I would probably be sitting on my ass, bored out of my mind at home if I did not have to get up each day. But sometimes it is just so exhausting and people do not know how difficult it is to get through a full day of work.
14. People would be surprised to know: quite a bit of the time I am trying really hard not to cry because of the pain or malaise
15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: more limitations - I already limit myself a lot because of my anxiety and now it feels like there are just that many more things that are off limits
16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: keep going - I know that millions of people keep going on with life each day despite their illness, but I was so overwhelmed at first I did not think I would end up being one of them.
17. The commercials about my illness: only show elderly women even though it is commonly women between 25 and 50 that develop RA
18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: long walks with my husband, walking the dogs any time I wanted, taking on big projects at home
19. It was really hard to have to give up: taking on big DIY projects at home
20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: I have always been a reader, but I have been going through books like crazy lately.
21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: go on a long hike with my husband and the pups
22. My illness has taught me: I can't control everything and I need to stop trying so hard to be control all the time.
23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is: My (fill in with random body part) hurts sometimes. I think I have that too!
24. But I love it when people: tell me I have a great attitude.
25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is: Smile, breathe, and go slowly - Thich Nhat Hanh
26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: Don't believe everything people write or say about RA. When there is not a cure to an illness, people can basically say whatever they want.
27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: It has not been that long since my diagnosis, but I feel a push to do whatever I can to get healthy. It may not always be my number one priority, but it is more of one than ever before. Believe me, I never would have braved a swimsuit and got in the pool with a bunch of seventy year old women for an aquatics class before.
28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: My husband becomes my nurse.
29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because: awareness and understanding is always a good thing
30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: like I might have made a small difference