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Monday, September 12, 2011

The sun'll come your bottom dollar

     So much has happened since my last post I can hardly believe it has been only a few weeks!  Just as the sun rises over the green mountains of Vermont in the photo above, so we here in Vermont are rising up from the terrible devastation of the floods from Irene.  My family and our personal property (home, etc.) escaped the wrath of the storm but thousands and thousands of Vermonters were not so lucky, including many folks in our city and nearby communities.   Over 100 roads were closed and at least 3 of our historic covered bridges that have been around for centuries were lost. 
     Despite the tragedy and loss, one of the most compelling things to witness throughout this crisis is the resiliency of the human spirit.  It has been truly awe-inspiring to see first hand how friends, family, people from all corners of the world come together in times like this to help one another.  Because of my work with seniors and volunteers, I get to see on a day to day basis the giving nature of people through volunteering so I was not surprised by the response but it was and continues to be beyond anything I have ever witnessed.
     So how does this tie into RA?  Well, while all of this was going on, I was having a really tough time - switching RA medications once again, finding out that my list of available activities is shrinking (as my height is with aging) and trying to keep a positive outlook.  Perhaps worst of all I began to develop some other troubling issues starting with relentless nausea.  8 weeks later it became clear when other symptoms entered the "party" that my reflux was back with a vengeance along with a likely ulcer.  For a good 2-3 weeks I was pretty much "out of commission", just trying to get through each day and getting very little sleep thanks to the night time pain that ulcers are so well known for.  
     It has really driven home to me how important other areas of our health are beyond the routine (i.e. day to day) care of RA.  Because the truth is that even when the "typical" symptoms of RA (joint pain, swelling, redness, fatigue) are not as severe as normal other "secondary" issues can creep up on us and become real problems.  In this case, the reasons for the ulcer are numerous and some I must take full blame for.  Out of my control but a real issue were the medications I take to control the RA (ironic, right?).  NSAIDS are horrible on your stomach and 15 years into RA my gut has had enough.  Secondly, I had cut back on my Reflux medications thanks to them not being covered for some time by my insurance (they are again, thank God).   What I also had become far to carefree about were the lifestyle items that one needs to attend to in dealing with GERD.   Stress was a nasty little gremlin that was contributing to the problem. 
      Even good stress can be a problem and I am not good at saying no to requests for my time and so it got pretty out of control this past year from a work perspective. 
      And though exercise is my primary release, because of RA issues, I have had to curtail and cut back and readjust, etc. my exercise and that in itself is stressful to me. 
     Lastly, I really stopped watching my intake of caffeine, chocolate and mint and often nibbled late at night.  Its like I just ignored the list of foods to avoid!
          So, the end result was a perfect storm (which is precisely  what it felt like in my stomach) and I was getting more sick by the day and just did not know how to cope anymore.  Now, as I reflect back, I realize that for a time, I was just not able to psychologically juggle all the demands, including the work, personal, health, leisure, travel, exercise, volunteering, etc. and something had to crash and boy did it!
     Now that I am coming back to a better place, I can feel such a difference it makes me realize just how lousy I felt!  Often you don't fully appreciate feeling good until you don't. One of the most difficult parts to this is the sleeping aspect.  As everyone who has RA knows, sleep is often elusive for us and so to have something OTHER than the RA be the reason is even more annoying!  I am currently sleeping in an upright position...even with my bed propped up to nearly 90 degrees I have to nearly be in the sitting position to sleep without pain which is all I care about at this point.  
     It really does look rather odd to see me at bedtime.  My one son was home and as I always leave my bedroom ajar when the hall fan is on to circulate air he could clearly see in as he was heading to his own bedroom one night.  He mentioned the next day that I was sure "up late reading" and I explained that I was not reading that was me sleeping!  
     Bottom line here is that as we continue to work to manage our RA we really must remember that there are "outlying" issues that must be attended to or we run the risk of being OK RA-wise but in bad health anyway!  Not a result I want.
      So just as my friends and neighbors rise above their difficulties with courage, strength and resiliency I hope I can model that same attitude as I regain my strength.


deb aka murpthesurf said...

I am sorry to read that you have been having such a crummy time of it. Please be careful with the issues you have as I know you know, they can be just as bad as ra in the short term. Did you find the relief you were seeking? Can you take the same medications or will you have to change them up due to the stomach problems. Poor you :-( I am truly sorry to hear this as you deserve good days, you really do.

Thrive With RA said...

Hi Nan,

I emailed you twice and also commented on your last post, inquiring if you were ok. I was worried the flooding had reached you personally.

I'm happy you are ok with the flooding, but sorry your health is troubling you above and beyond. I hope you can get some relief. I'm happy you are doing so well now in balancing everything. You're a busy lady helping a lot of people.

I know you'll continue to take good care of yourself Nan. I'm so happy to see you out and about in RA-land again! :)

Jan said...

Hope things are improving.

I'm so glad you're reading "Still Life" by Louise Penny! That series gets better with each successive book. I wonder if I could "loan" you my Kindle copies of the last four in the mystery series?

I really liked "The Hunger Games," too!