Friday, September 28, 2012

Yes, There's More

Last week, I got hit with what I thought was the flu. Though I didn't have a fever, I was extremely tired and my entire body ached. I missed two days of work because of it. When I began to feel a bit better, I realized that my joints weren't. My hands, fingers, wrists, neck, back, and ankles were aching. I dismissed it for a few days and figured it was just a remnant of some kind of virus that I had.

When the aching did not subside, I began to grow worried. I had experienced a similar episode a few months ago and again chalked it up to some sort of flu. But two such episodes?

Since I have a strong family history of auto immune disease on both sides of my family - diabetes, arthritis, MS, etc. - I made an appointment with a rheumatologist on Wednesday.

After bloodwork and x-rays and an extensive exam, he diagnosed me with arthritis.

However, I believe the diagnosis may soon change to rheumatoid arthritis. I had my RF (rheumatoid factor) checked in my blood and it is above normal. While this does not make it a given that I have rheumatoid arthritis, combine that with my symptoms and my family history and it is strongly possible. I have to wait to speak to my doctor about it all at my next appointment. (The lab work results came to me after my initial appointment and as my doctor is on vacation, I will have to wait for the official diagnosis if this is indeed what it is).

I sometimes wonder if one person can really have so many health issues. But I guess not only is it possible, it's a fact. (If you're new here and interested in all my health problems...well, let's just say I've had several surgeries in the past few years!).

Strangely, I am not getting overly worked up about all of this. As I research the symptoms and the reality of rheumatoid arthritis, I can begin to see why I had so many times where I felt great, then got hit with illness. These are called "flare ups." If I am fortunate, I will continue to have long periods of time where I feel good. If medication is necessary, then I hope it helps, as well.
I'm not sure if Snoopy really said this, but I like it anyway.

However, niggling at the back of my brain is this harsh reality: I write, which means I use my fingers to type, and if my fingers are stiff (like they are at this very moment), that is going to make typing harder, which will make writing harder.

That scares the crap out of me.

During the time I was struck with the overwhelming fatigue, I couldn't concentrate. I couldn't write and barely had the energy to even read. All I really wanted to do was sleep and mindlessly surf the internet.

This isn't good. If I'm going to be battling this for the rest of my life, I need to learn coping strategies - emotionally and physically. I don't want to to eschew life just because I'm down and out. I refuse to be an invalid. I refuse to allow a disease to define who I am.

In the end, as I am a Christian, I am just giving it to God. That is really all I can do.

If you're wondering why I am putting something so personal on my blog, it's for several reasons. One, my blog is about the writing life - and this is most certainly going to affect that. Two, I want other writers suffering from chronic illnesses to know they're not alone (I've added some great links to my sidebar about living with chronic illness if you're interested). Three, there are some things that I feel I should share. This is one of them.

I don't want sympathy or pity - it's not needed. I don't want to be treated as an invalid because I'm not. I'm going to keep doing what I love. I'll keep smiling. There will be days I want to crawl under the covers and not move (because it hurts to!), but I will deal with it when it comes.

Onward!

22 comments:

  1. Boy, this sounds so familiar. My sister has auto-immune problems and has had 24/7 pain in her joints since she was in her twenties. She has been unable to take anything to treat any of her symptoms because of allergies. And she plays the flute for a living. Like you said, she just keeps going doing what she loves, doesn't complain except every now and then when the aches get too bad to bear.

    I hate it from my side because there is absolutely nothing I can do to help her. That drives me crazy, not being able to alleviate her pain.

    I love your positive attitude, and hope the flare ups are very rare!

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    1. Thank you, DK. It's good to hear from someone who has a relative dealing with this - I think my hubby is a bit in shock. Kind of like, "It's always something!" LOL. Good for your sister, for keeping on keeping on!

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  2. Melissa-I admire you so much! It seems you've had more than your share of this kind of thing, yet you see the positive in your situation by hoping that somehow you may help someone else dealing with the same issues. With your attitude, and your gift for writing I have no doubt you will impact many lives for the better. I for one am sure glad that I know you:)

    Big hug, dearest:)

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    1. Oh, Valerie, thank you so much. I know there will be days I will complain and my hubby will wish for a magic pill to make me all better, but I hope I can have an overall positive attitude with all of this. God knows what He is doing, so I must trust Him. (And I am NOT giving up chocolate!) Hugs to you, too!

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  3. 'Keep looking up', indeed! I'm so sorry to hear this sad news, I know it's going to difficult with writing and I really feel for you. I hope you can stay positive, it's always interesting what the Big Guy throws at us. I'm in awe of the strength that people find within when things like this happen. Big hugs my friend, and keep smiling. xo

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    1. Thanks for the good thoughts, Talei! I hope I can stay positive, too. I think that is the key - but to also not beat myself up if I do happen to get weepy and complain for a few days. I think it's only human nature to be emotionally miserable sometimes. =D

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  4. Hope you feel better soon. Sometimes finding out is good, knowledge being power and all that.

    As for writing, may be you could look into voice programs. I hear from a few lawyers that they "dictate" to their computer software and then manually edit.

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    1. Thank you, Jasmina. Actually, my rheumatologist was using one of those voice programs while I was in my office. Pretty cool!

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  5. Melissa,

    I hope it is ok to join your discussion. I have a couple of quick comments.

    First, I am sorry to hear about your diagnosis. I know how terrifying it must be for you, please accept my prayers and hope that you find that things are not as dire as they may seem tonight. Good luck and God Bless!

    Secondly , and much less important. I found you from your submission to the “Flogging the Quill” website. I submitted a sample about two months ago. My submission was not as well as received as yours. Thanks in large part to the fact that you are a much better writer. We did share the same problem, like you I started my story too early. Since then, I am re-writing the first third of my story and I believe that this will greatly strengthen my work.

    I say this in an effort to keep your spirits up. Re-writing my first third was necessary for me to make a better product. I am finding that I am able to weave in several different story lines, plot lines and give the characters a stronger voice. I chose the first place in the story that was essential as the starting place for the new beginning.

    I hope that you don’t find that you are required to resort to such drastic measures and I know that you are an experienced author so I will rest assured that all will be well in your world. Keep smiling and trust in the Faith, Hope and Love that we all are blessed to know.

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    1. Hi Rob! It is perfectly okay and welcome to join this discussion! Thank you so much for your lovely comment and for stopping by. I am so glad that I submitted my stuff to Flogging the Quill as it made me see that I was starting the story in the wrong place. I believe I've found a solution, though, so will be working on that today on this beautiful Saturday. I found your submission and I must say, you write beautifully. I wish you much success in your writing, and please stop by the blog in the future! :)

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  6. Onward AND upward! You have your confidence placed where it needs to be so all will be well!

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  7. Sorry to hear this news, Melissa. I admire your positive attitude - the best thing needed to get through trying times! Keep looking up and God will see you through.

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    1. I rely on Him completely to get me through this, JT. I know if I tried to do it myself, I'd fail miserably. :)

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  8. My prayers are sent with much love and healing. And the peace that surpasses all others...

    Dealing with my recent bout of carpal tunnel, I know exactly of that fear; if I can't use my hands, what happens next??? It is scary, no saying otherwise. But I'm taking this as an exercise in faith, patience too (goodness knows I can always use more of both). That you have been diagnosed now means you can move forward to whatever comes next. Again, my love and prayers are with you, as a writer, a sister in Christ, and a lover of Snoopy too. :)))

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    1. I had carpal tunnel about 7 years ago, then started to use an ergonomic keyboard and it helped tremendously. I hope yours gets better soon, Anna. I know the important role writing plays in your life. Sending prayers for you, as well!

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  9. Gosh if writing isn't hard enough, then add something like this! But maybe you can use the flareup times to do other types of work, like dictating ideas into a recorder or catching up on reading... I don't know how people without faith face situations like these. It's such a heavy weight to bear the thought of everything that can go wrong in our lives alone.

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    1. I so agree with you, Margo. I have often wondered how they deal with these situations, too.

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  10. You're not having much joy at the moment, are you? But ... if it explains all of the other instances too, that's something at least.

    Don't forget, though, if you are feeling to ill to type, there is voice activation software, for what it's worth.

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    1. Answers are always good to have with medical stuff, so I'm thankful for excellent doctors. And I try to find joy in the simple things, like the beautiful autumn leaves that are filling our community right now. It's gorgeous.

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  11. I'm sorry to hear about this and hope you start feeling better soon. You're a step closer to getting some answers and while the answers may not be pleasant, at least you have a better idea of the road ahead.

    Never give up on your passion, even when it seems like the world, and everything in it, is against you. My Grandma once told me that when times get tough she likes to think of her favorite saying (which was also her senior class quote in high school), "Climb thou the rocks be rugged." I like to think of life as a mountain, there are moments where its smooth going and the surroundings are spectacular. But then there are times when you're clawing your way up and over hurdles, wondering if you will ever make it. In the end though, when you can look out and see for miles and nothing could obstruct the beauty of the view and how you feel in that moment, that's when you realize that the climb is always worth it.

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  12. This sounds so awful, i'm sorry!! I work as a Rheumatologist scribe and see patients come and go. I have grown to love all of them and look up to all of them for what they are going through.

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