What it doesn’t say in the fine print of life: Arthritis

It’s funny. I started writing this blog 12 years ago (that’s 2009 for the mathematically challenged), before “aging” kicked in. I was in my late 30’s, I was looking good and yeah, 12 years later, the world looks a whole lot different.

So, here I am just a few months shy of 50 and I have a complaint. Nobody bothered to hand me the fine print of life where it says, “By the way, when you’re about to turn 50, watch out for…”

NoooOOOooo. Why would life bother to at least give a heads up or something? It’s not like life has been plotting this entire time, making sure there is a proverbial rake right in front of me at any moment, no! It doesn’t do that! It’s not a sadistic thing just waiting for the right moment to make sure everyone knows I have an adversarial relationship with gravity, no!

Come to find out — those were the easy parts. When you’re young, everything works. (For most people. My pal Janet would heartily disagree, but those are special circumstances.)

I’m finding out that the whole aging process is kind of like parenting. There isn’t a guide or a book you can buy that will tell you how to cope with things that start hurting at random or prepare you for the moment that the pinkie on your left hand looks at you and says, “Peace out,” relinquishing any strength it once had. I’m looking at mine going, “Come on, man! You used to carry heavy bags of groceries up a flight of stairs for me single-fingeredly while I had my backpack and all kinds of other stuff to carry as well, and NOW you decide to give out? What the heck? I thought I could count on you…” (*snicker*…unintended pun.)

Don’t get me wrong. I have observed the elders in my family. My grandmother had Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). One of my cousins has it. As we all know, Janet (a.k.a. Pehpsee) had it almost her whole life. Author Goddess Auntie Lee has it and she’s a successful novelist. Auntie June had it. I’ve lost count of how many of my friends and family members suffer with it. Before I was diagnosed with it, I watched as the auto-immune disease ravaged their bodies and I have to admit until you have it, you don’t know what it’s like. All you know is that it’s painful and it sucks. To be honest, I don’t remember my grandmother’s hands ever being straight or ever seeing her casually gripping things like a glass or a cup like everyone else. I just remember seeing them folded over because she was unable to open her hands without assistance and overwhelming pain. When I received my RA diagnosis and my doctor told me I had bone loss in six out of ten fingers, all I could think of was me having my grandmothers hands. Nightmare fuel to say the least. Now, with a little bit of mileage on this road, I just wish that she would have had the goodies we have today to fight the dreaded RA. I even have pressure gloves that I wear when I sleep to make sure my fingers stay straight.

The biggest thing I am grateful for is that I have a great rheumatologist. It’s like a trip to Wakanda every appointment because he sounds like Chadwick Boseman in Black Panther. You should hear him say “methotrexate.” It’s the cutest thing ever. He’s very thorough and every time I have my virtual visits with him, he forgets to tilt the tablet so I end up looking at the top of his head while he’s making sure I take my folic acid every day so I don’t get liver damage from the “met-o-tress-ate”. It’s pure MCU every time, so it’s made my RA treatment fun.

Y’all know me. You know I always try to tackle these tougher moments with a sense of humor. Come on! I am sitting here smelling like BenGay (extra-strength, thank you very much) because I’m pretty positive I’ve used too much Voltaren for the week. Read the label, it has a stroke and heart attack warning on the side. (Oh, that’s fun.) And then there are the RA medications they show commercials for on TV that has a list of side effects longer than the benefits of the medication. (Oh, that’s fun too. But at least it’s not an E.D. commercial. Dear Gods, when are they ever going to stop?!?! Lordy, when I was younger and a Tampax commercial would come on in front of a boy I liked, I’d want to dive under the couch and DIE. Now, between the RA med commercials, we’ve got to hear about…well, you know. *eyeroll*)

To top it all off, I just love injecting myself with my RA medication. Man, when I was young, the only little pricks I had to deal with were the ones with delusions of adequacy, but nooOOOOOoooo, now that I’m older it’s an epi-pen kind of hypodermic that I get to shoot into the tops of my thighs or my tummy every other week. On second thought, I might have lucked out. Medications don’t have delusions of adequacy. They work or they don’t, but they most certainly don’t sulk if they fail. And with the Humira, I only have to depress the plunger for 10 seconds on the injection and then it’s over for another 14 days…yup, I’ve lucked out – the meds are definitely less trouble!

Speaking of trouble, what nobody ever describes is what RA pain is like because I think it’s different for everyone. For me — it’s a dull ache in my joints all the time except when a specific joint starts hollering “Over here! Hey! Hey! Help! Please help!” like C-3PO flagging down the Jawas on Tatooine. And let me tell you, there is no little astro-droid to help with repairs on this ride. You get out the Tylenol, the analgesic cream, deal with the issue and keep going.

CP3O Waving
This is an inflamed joint when you have RA. It’s going to keep waving at you in that annoying voice.

And then there’s “when the weather changes.” Okay, what they don’t tell you in the fine print of life is that humidity hurts when you have RA, especially if you live in the desert like I do. See, in the Mojave, we have 9 months of summer. Hot, dry and oh do my hands love it. But when the weather changes, I just want to curl up in bed with some heavy duty painkillers because everything hurts. The joints in my feet, ankles, knees, hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders…if it’s a joint, C-3PO won’t shut the *bleep* up because everything swells and gets really awful.

Another thing they don’t tell you in the fine print of life is that life doesn’t end once you get one of these auto-immune diseases. (Hey, I’m up to two, I can definitely speak on the topic.) Every morning, you get up, breathe in and out, take a Tylenol or Advil and once a week it’s a party for methotrexate night, then a shot every other week, two days after methotrexate night so the party never ends. (If you saw my pill drawer, you’d fall over. In the beginning I had just one bottle, my levothyroxine. Then came my anxiety meds. It was just the two of them, I swear! Then, I came back a few months later, looked in my drawer, and PILL BUNNIES! You can’t put two pill bottles next to each other. They breed like Catholic rabbits. Next thing you know you’re up to 10 bottles staring at you from the medicine cabinet! Pill bunnies are real. Carter who?)

I really do wish that someone would publish the fine print of life. That way bookworms like me could actually have a chance at getting through things without having to look them up or bother Auntie Lee for guidance.

And leave it to me to put the BenGay on my hands, then rub my eyes mid-post. LOL. So much for reading the fine print! (Book smarts are directly and inversely proportional to common sense, trust me. *facepalm*)

Thanks for sticking with me through this ramble. It’s been a while since I’ve written. I’m just proud I did. Writing is a muscle. You’ve got to keep doing it if you want to see improvement. LOL. (And if anyone wants to volunteer to be my editor, let me know. LOL.)

If you have the ability, please think of supporting the Arthritis Foundation. I was just tickled about the letter I got about my last donation…

My thank you letter from the Arthritis Foundation
Pehpsee Lives.

How long has it been since we did song of the day? Well, this one is for Janet who is in Heaven right now, running, jumping and climbing. You go, girl.

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