I decided to learn how to knit. Yes, I know. Someone who has RA that affects mostly their hands deciding to take up a hobby which requires finger dexterity seems crazy. But the fact remains that I have always wanted to learn how to knit. When the opportunity came up for me to take a knitting class I jumped on it. While my hands are worse now than when I began taking lessons I am still able to practice for a short amount of time every day. I won’t pretend that there isn’t some pain associated with learning to knit. I am quickly realizing that I won’t be sitting down and working on a project for more than 15minutes at a time. I have also come to the conclusion that most of my projects will have that beautiful icy hot scent. But that is quite alright. Learning this skill has done so much for my mental health. I have been able to pursue a dream (however small) that I thought was loss to me with my RA diagnosis. I will probably never be able to do a project without allocating twice the time any other knitter would need. But the simple fact that I am knitting feels good and empowering. It makes me understand that RA will not dictate what I decide to accomplish in my life. It may cause me to modify how I accomplish my goals, but my goals are still within my reach.
Tonight is injection night. I’ve gotten over the whole sticking myself with a needle thing. The first couple of times I had to inject myself were a bit surreal but now it hardly warrants a second thought. What is difficult is taking a drug that I know will make me feel like truly awful the next day in order to not feel poorly for the rest of the week. Every week I ask myself is this really necessary? I know that it is. Even though I have been on MTX for 5 years now, I still have that moment where I hesitate.
Suddenly I am sitting on my bed counting out six pills. The drug information sheet from my pharmacy is sitting next to me. I can once again feel my heart racing just like it did the first time I took this drug. I remember thinking that there was no denying my condition anymore. I hurt so badly that I was willing to take low dose chemotherapy with the hope that maybe it would control the pain. It was definitely gut check time. I remember my hand shaking as I popped those pills in my mouth and swallowed.
MTX has successfully controlled my joint pain. Usually I need no additional meds than some a.dvil most days. After slowly increasing my dosage and then switching over to the injectable form I was so much better. Until this year I had been flare free. Until this year I could stand to skip a week or two if I wanted to. Until this year I had been pretending that RA no longer mattered in my life. But once again this year my RA made me cry.
Before diagnosis and finding a treatment that worked for me RA was a bully that broke down my resolve. I cried many times a day. Sometimes from the pain, other times from frustration. And this year I cried because I had to deal with those emotions again.
Tonight I need to take my MTX. I will carefully measure out 0.8 cc in my syringe. I will inject the yellow liquid into my shoulder. The eyes that stare back at me in the bathroom mirror will reflect my resolve. For again this week I will believe that everything will be alright. I will promise myself no matter what course this disease takes I will live my life. I will promise myself that I will return to health despite and in spite of my disease.
So I went back to the gym today. I didn’t do anything spectacular-just a slow jog on the elliptical for 35 minutes. It actually felt really good to be doing something physical again. I had forgotten how much clearer and more focused I am after a good workout. I tried to ignore the fact how slowly I was moving or that I had set the resistance on level one. My focus was more on changing my couch potato behavior patter than anything else. It is soooo hard to go to work out after standing up all day at work. I had almost talked myself out of doing anything but sitting on the bed and engaging in some mindless television viewing. The only thing that got me off that bed was the mindless eating that accomplished my mindless tv watching. After seeing how much of the bag of chips I had finished off I felt suddenly inspired to burn a few of those calories off. My goal is to exercise at least 4-5 days a week with light weight lifting 2-3 of those days. I am going to have to do some research on the best way to incorporate weights into my exercise plan. I do not want to do more harm than good. RA joints need all of the TLC they can get!
I am also dealing with the dreaded return of symptoms. Of course they would start coming back after I graduated to 6 month appointments. I had been doing great for a year. Yes, I went one year with no flare! I really believed that I was in remission however I have had one flare already this year. I also have seen the return of random swelling and stiffness at some point every day for over a month. My hands and toes seem to bare the brunt of my symptoms. The pain is more in the annoying phase than the debilitating phase. I am determined to work through it. I will be taking some ibuprofen before exercising and using i.cy hot before going to work out. I know that there may be days or weeks in which my exercise plan will need to be adjusted. If I really am coming out of remission there will be days where walking will be all the exercise I can handle. I am ok with that. As long as I get the physical activity I am capable of doing I will count it as a win.
I believe that I can be healthy with RA (rheumatoid arthritis). My health is not defined by how many flares I have or whether I am indeed coming out of remission. It is about me taking time each day to take care of my mind, body, and soul. Its been a long time since I took time out to take care of myself. I am someone who is always looking for the next big project or the next challenge. But this time the next big project to conquer is getting my healthy! This is the beginning of that journey