Wednesday, January 11, 2006
“Your x-rays still show no new bone growth on either foot so we can rule out a stress fracture. Your bloodwork, however, was much more revealing. Your rheumatoid factor is a 68; it should be less than 20. Your CRP and ESR are also elevated. These results, in conjunction with symmetrical joint swelling in your feet and hands all point strongly to rheumatoid arthritis.”
“I’m going to start you on several medications today. Celebrex for pain. Prednisone is a steroid that we’re going to start you on a high level and taper you down. This will reduce the inflammation while the other medications start to work. Methotrexate is a chemotherapy drug. It can have some pretty nasty side effects so we’re going to start you low and build you up to 8 a week. I’m also giving you a combination folic acid and vitamin B to help combat the side effects.”
“We’re going to do this for two months and then re-evaluate to see if you need a biologic. How do you feel about giving yourself shots?”
Blink. Giving myself shots? For what? I don’t even know what it is that I have. Please just let me get out of here.
I’d never even heard of rheumatoid arthritis. When I thought about any sort of arthritis, all I could picture were the elderly folks my church youth group would visit with at the holidays and my great grandmother. I mean, think about it: that’s generally what’s shown in advertising. At the time, I had no clue that there were many types and that they could affect people my age.
To make matters worse, after getting home from the doctor that day, I decided to “educate” myself on rheumatoid arthritis. How, you ask? By using the END ALL BE ALL most reliable and authentic source of all information in the entire universe: ye merry olde interwebs. Needless to say, I was much better off “uneducated.” I had no idea at the time that there was such a general misconception of what RA is. To this day, I see pharmaceutical ads on TV and in magazines that are just wrong. Hello Enbrel ad from 2009- I shall never forget you. But at the time, I took them as fact.
So I cried for hours and then took my raccoon eyed self to the mall where I dropped $200 on the cutest pair of incredibly fugly orthopedic dress shoes. I remember thinking ‘so, I guess this is life now. So long running.’ Then I decided my best course of action was to hide this from everyone and would continue to do this for over 2 years.
Let’s just say this was the worst decision I could’ve ever made a decision that made everything harder and based on my own uninformed ideas and leave it at that, ok?
So, what does Rheumatoid Arthritis look like?
Specifically, Rheumatoid Arthritis was 26 on that day. A friend, a daughter, a sister, a coworker. Loves running, kickboxing, reading, dancing. Very reluctant to let go of any of these things. Very sensitive and self conscious when she received a diagnosis that she didn’t think she was representative of thanks to horrible misconceptions.
Except that she was. Right on the money actually.
Demographically, RA is 20 – 40 at onset and two to three times more likely female than male. Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks joints. It is chronic yet also very treatable through combinations of very strong medications with many patients (yours truly included) able to eventually return to almost normal.
Yet the arthritis the public generally attributes to ALL autoimmune arthritis conditions is osteoarthritis- the condition caused by wear and tear from aging or overuse and the ONLY one where “just go take a Tylenol” may yield positive results.
“Buckle Me Up!” International Autoimmune Arthritis Movement is an up and coming non-profit dedicated to helping those suffering from autoimmune arthritis conditions by increasing understanding and awareness through education, partnerships, and support. We are trying to raise money to finance legal fees and startup costs associated with filing 501(c)(3) paperwork.
I can’t imagine how much this would’ve helped me when I was newly diagnosed. Having information and support and people to talk to would’ve made everything so much easier and less scary. And believe you me, it was a very scary and lonely time.
It would mean the world to me if you would visit www.bucklemeupmovement.com/donate to read more about this and to donate $1.