I know I’m not the only one diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. It’s estimated that 1% of the population has RA. I know RA is not the worst problem in the world, many experience far worse in terms of pain, debility, struggle and hardship. This article tells a story about a tiny pain droplet in the ocean of pain that is experienced globally whether from RA or some other named disease or event affecting the body or the mind.
I dreamed I could fly above the clouds, I was so light and airy, I moved with grace and ease and then I was dancing the polka, gliding across the floor, giggling and laughing out loud.
The morning light filters through the cotton white window coverings gently touching my eyelids. Instantly, I’m aware of a painful heaviness from my head all the way to my toes. I feel battered. Sighing, a thought comes to mind. Why is it that I don’t have RA in my dreams? I roll back the covers that feel like a fifty pound weight.
A sore restrictive pain radiates from the back of my neck joint up toward the base of my skull, down between my shoulder blades and out toward my shoulders. The whole area feels frozen and awfully painful. Some day’s I can hardly move my head right or left, up or down because the neck joint is so inflamed and painful to move.
I roll onto my back and raise my legs flinging them away from my body to propel me into an upright position. Sitting at the side of my bed, I contemplate standing. My knees, ankles and feet are swollen and sore as if they are sprained. The thought of standing feels overwhelming. The energy and pain it takes seems insurmountable. I imagine in my mind’s eye that I stand up with ease over and over until I feel I can do it. I begin to rock my body back and forth until I gain enough momentum to lift myself up and off the bed.
Slowly, I maneuver myself to the kitchen feeling the sore tightness through the neck and shoulders while placing one foot methodically in front of the other so as not to make a move that will cause increased pain in either ankle.
Before this uncontrolled RA situation developed, I would have headed straight for the shower, but now, it takes a few hours of wakefulness before I’m able to accomplish that feat, although sometimes I haven’t been able to shower at all due to extreme unrelenting pain and inflammation.
The shoulder joints feel achy and hard to move, they don’t want to let me lift my arm to reach for the tea bags in the cupboard. I grab a ruler, raise my hand as high as it will go and knock the tea box onto the counter with the ruler. Mustering all the strength I have with two hands, I tip the tea-kettle enough to pour water into a cup.
One day I asked the rheumatologist why the symptoms are so intense in the morning after a night’s rest. She simply replied, “We don’t know.”
I’ve learned that the higher the inflammation count, the longer it takes for the symptoms to let up a bit. Sometimes I feel slight relief by early afternoon, sometimes later, sometimes not at all.
I may have written about rheumatoid arthritis in an earlier post, but for those who don’t know what it is, I’ll explain what I know. RA is considered an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune means the body’s immune system is overreacting.
In RA, the immune system over-produces white cells which the body use to fight against invading bacteria and virus, but apparently with RA there is no bacteria or virus to fight off and the white cells collect in the synovial fluid of the body. Synovial fluid is found all through the body including surrounding joint tissue and organs.
The abundance of white cells is the cause of the inflammation, the inflammation is the cause of the pain. Over time the inflammation destroys the tissue and the bone. Once the inflammation sets in, it won’t let up. Several of my limbs are severely impacted with limited motion.
My feet do not bend and are too swollen to comfortably fit into trendy off the rack foot-wear. My gait is clunky and unsteady. I’m sure sometimes people think I’ve been drinking. Immobility in my ankles and feet prevent me from descending the stairs like most people with one foot then the other, I descend one step at a time with both feet. Going up a flight of stairs I’m winded due to the RA affecting my lungs and the general loss of stamina from chronic disease.
Kneeling is not an option at any time and sometimes it’s hard to move from standing to sitting or sitting to standing. Opening containers, cutting vegetables, holding/carrying dishes, and other household tasks is cumbersome and painful with sore inflamed fingers, hands and wrists.
To sum it up, my body is in constant pain every day, sometimes it’s tolerable, other times overwhelming. Life has slowed down considerably, every task and activity takes much longer to accomplish, walking, showering, personal care, driving, shopping, preparing meals, cleaning-up, etc., etc.
Just as Lester Levenson wondered what his life was for when he was sent home from the hospital and told there was nothing the doctors could do after having a massive coronary, I too, wonder what my life is for. I ask myself, “Is it for experiencing pain and suffering?”
Thanks for reading. I really appreciate it. Part 2 will follow soon. Comments are always welcome.