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


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.