Happy World Arthritis Day, y’all!
In honor of our fabulously “blue day,” this onset story post is written as part of the IAAM World Arthritis Day Blog Event, an event with participants from MANY other blogs, support groups, non-profits, and major advocacy groups. How awesome is it when this fabulous community of ours puts together a united front! Because, honestly, that’s what we HAVE to do in order to make changes for the better. If you’re a blogger reading this and want to know how to participate, email me (or comment) and I’ll send you the scoop. Also, I encourage you to visit the IAAM Facebook page to see other blogs participating AND (if that’s not enough), post your own onset stories in my comments and not only will I approve the comment, I will also repost your comments in a seperate post so that all may read it.
So…enough instructions right? On to the story!
Some of you may have seen some recent press and advocacy efforts in response to some absolutely
assinine socially irresponsible comments made by Dr Phil on two seperate occasions. According to Dr Phil, obesity causes rheumatoid arthritis. Yep, you read that right. And even better, this was said by a man whose dissertation was entitled “Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Psychological Intervention.” So perhaps his psychological intervention would be to throw carrots and rice cakes at us patients?
I have a hard time writing about my onset so bear with me if this is a bit choppy and rambling.
I grew up dancing. I was best at ballet- I’ve always been long and lean and best at the graceful stuff- but I loved tap because it was LOUD and jazz because it was always to fun music. I danced competitively in high school and then continued dancing at frat parties in college. (Sorry Mom and Dad.) After college, I got super into group exercise classes and then running.
In the six months before things really got bad for me, I dealt with the following events in a very short period of time: a brother deployed to Iraq, some serious job drama, a suicide in my family, a lot of family in-fighting due to the suicide, and a pretty severely broken heart. Family who may read this, please don’t take what I said above the wrong way. It is simply a fact that we all had different opinions, reactions, and ways of dealing with it. Nothing wrong with that.
So what did I do to deal? I controlled everything I could about myself because it was the only thing I felt that I had any say in. I ate very cleanly and I worked out incessantly. Ironically, one of the worst situations I’d ever been in propelled me to live the healthiest I’ve ever lived in my entire life.
One of my last memories before starting to have problems is taking a kick boxing class with one of my guy friends at the gym. I wanted to try it and he, a former collegiate athlete, warned me that it was a hard class.
Oh, I should probably mention that I’m competitive.
I was in great shape. I was working out with a personal trainer 3 times a week, running, lifting weights, RUNNING STAIRS, and even wind sprints. I was also keeping a food diary and forcing myself to eat protein bars and shakes. I do not miss that part. When I worked out like that, I felt good about myself. Hell, where I was at emotionally, it felt so good to feel good about ANYTHING.
I remember being totally exhausted halfway through the class, looking over and seeing him still going, and thinking oh hell no am I going to let this boy outdo me in something this close to a dance class. That gave me the energy I needed to keep going.
Towards the end of the class, they had us pair off and air punch each other. I gave him one hard right upper air hook, slung a whole bunch of sweat in his face, and grinned. He looked at me, shocked, and started laughing so hard, he had to stop.
AJ-1 Former collegiate football player- 0
And yes, that felt GOOD. As did the long, hot shower I took afterwards.
I started having problems with my feet a few months later. Quite literally, my left foot had been sore for a couple of days and I took a run on a treadmill at the gym. Okay, okay. So the real story is that I was really angry at a boy for being a douche so I took an anger run which, for me, was usually a longer, harder run that normal. But jerky boys stress me out and my choices were run it out or say something I would later regret. I ran for probably 40 minutes. Headphones on. Anger mix playing- if you’re ever interested in good tunes for an anger mix, I highly recommend Christina Aguilera’s Fighter and Linkin Park’s In The End. Suffice it to say, I was pounding my feet in a way that I definitely shouldn’t have been. When I stopped and stepped off the treadmill, I was in so much pain that I almost hit the ground. I remember thinking great, I should’ve just said what I was thinking because now I’m going to hate him forever for breaking my foot.
My x-ray the next day revealed nothing. No break. I was told that it was probably a stress fracture and that they would redo the x-ray in a couple weeks at which point we would probably see scar tissue to confirm it. I was also told to stay off of it…which I didn’t after it started to feel better a few days later.
A week later, the other foot started hurting in the same place.
I continued working out with my trainer and mentioned the pain to her. She told me it could be due to having shoes that weren’t supportive enough.
I took myself to an expensive shoe store in town and got a pair of customized running shoes. Seriously customized. They put me on a treadmill in a pair of shoes with sensors so that they could see where I put my body weight when I ran and walked. They selected a pair of shoes for me based off of that and put additional support in them for me based off of the sensors.
Those were not cheap.
I continued working out in my new shoes and the pain continued, duller but persistant.
I went back to the doctor and had both feet xrayed. Nothing showed up on either. It was very frustrating. They ran all sorts of blood tests and by chance, looked at my rheumatoid factor based on a history of severe and chronic allergies that had required shots for several years. I remember thinking surely, SURELY, I don’t have yet another autoimmune thing going on. That would be crazy.
The pain continued with my left foot significantly worse than my right.
I was at work a couple days later when I heard my cellphone ring. I didn’t have time to answer so I figured I’d just deal with it later. A few minutes later, I had email to my work account from the nurse at my doctor’s office asking me to call her immediately.
I wish I’d kept that email. Because that literally was an email that started this whole ball rolling.
My diagnosis was confirmed several weeks later.
Someday, I will have the courage to blog about the place that diagnosis sent me when all of a sudden, it took away the only thing that made me feel good at the time. You can probably imagine that it wasn’t pretty.
You’re probably wondering what those numbers at the top are. They are a direct response to Dr. Phil.
133- my approximate weight at diagnosis
26- my age at diagnosis
32- my current age
To raise awareness, please post “your numbers” on your blogs, Facebook, and twitter. Feel free to use the metric system if you like it better or your BMI. Do not post what the numbers are, just that those are your numbers. We are asking everyone to do this and then to reveal what your numbers mean at the end of the day.
Take that, Dr. Phil!