My hair before and after medication
By my own admission…I am sick.
Unhealthy…unwell…diseased. There are literally hundreds of millions of people who suffer daily with some type of ailment. This doesn’t make me special or unique in anyway…it just makes me sick.
I don’t generally talk about my illnesses and not very many people know. I’m the strong, silent type. Never been the one to look for sympathy or ask for help. I don’t let people in…never have…I’m the “suffer in silence” type if you will.
So here goes nothing…this all started about 15 years ago when I began to have trouble with my feet. They would go completely numb…felt like I was walking on stumps. Made an appointment with the Doctor…who thought I possibly had neuromas (a thickening of nerve tissues) in my feet and sent me to a podiatrist. Who in turn gave me one of the most painful experiences I’ve ever had…cortisone shots in my feet. Look…I’m a child-bearing female so I have a high pain tolerance…but HOLY SHIT. I never said a word as the tears rolled down my cheeks. These shots worked wonders…my feet felt normal…for two whole weeks then another round of shots (I prefer my shots in glasses…) more tears…and another two weeks of relief.
Podiatrist said he wanted to do some blood work…thought he knew what was wrong because this was not neuromas. Blood work came back as he suspected…my RA levels were high…in the 80s…anything above 14 is considered abnormally elevated…I was scheduled immediately for an appointment with an internal medicine specialist.
RA or RF levels…rheumatoid factor…an antibody that binds to other antibodies in the blood and are generally called autoantibodies. Present in several diseases including lupus, liver disease, tuberculosis (I’ll be your Huckleberry) and my poison…rheumatoid arthritis…not your regular run-of-the-mill arthritis. Oh lucky me.
I’ve been called the “no big deal girl” many times. I guess I have a different mindset than most…I call my little outlooks on life Shawnaisms…this one is my motto…shit happens…absolutely terrible shit happens…being angry or bitter about anything will never change what happened…life is too short to be hateful and it takes too much energy to be miserable. I may have to scream and cry to come to grips with it but then I let it go and move on. I refuse to damage my own psyche by perpetuating the “terrible shit” when there is literally nothing I can do to change what has already occurred.
The doctor looked so pensive when he told me he thought I had rheumatoid arthritis…but I was thinking…eh…no big deal. I looked up this arthritis thing the first chance I got. To say I was absolutely shocked would be a huge understatement. In a nutshell…rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease where the immune system thinks the body’s joints are foreign and will wage war on said foreigners…attacking and eating the joints until there is nothing left but a crippled mess. Oh…and there is NO cure. I couldn’t help myself…curiosity has always been a problem with me…I clicked on “Images”…OH MY GOD…it felt as if someone had punched me in the gut…these pictures of completely deformed fingers and toes made me sick to my stomach. I was at work and had to run to my car where I sobbed for what seemed like forever. That’s a feeling of utter hopelessness right there.
I had no choice but to gather my scattered wits and wait to see what the rheumatologist said. Who…to my absolute delight…brushed me off to his nurse practitioner saying tests to determine RA aren’t conclusive and what I had was fibromyalgia (chronic joint pain with no reason) still not curable but not crippling! Oddly enough this felt like a small victory until a year later when I had to see another dr in the nurse practitioner’s absence and she ran more blood tests and told me she would speak to my dr…well that’s never good news and it led to my official RA diagnosis at age 32.
The bright side to a very gloomy situation is that I no longer had fibromyalgia…until a year later when they officially re-diagnosed me with that little gem on top of my RA. The treatments for RA have been somewhat brutal. I take drugs to suppress my little Napolean complexed immune system. Since there is no cure with this disease all you can do is maintain…take a drug or multiple drugs until they stop working…then you move on to something else. I took a form of chemotherapy for three years…vomited nearly every single day and lost most of my long, beautiful hair. Took this until it began to effect my liver…then on to something else. I have taken probably 20 different drugs in different combinations over the years. Currently, 8 pills a day and one weekly self-administered shot. If these stop working I’ve been told the next step is IV infusion done at a hospital either weekly or monthly depending on the drug.
Pretty sure one person can only take so many blows…but me?…I just kept plugging along…one diagnosis after another…fully menopausal at age 40…should have expected that because of the hysterectomy at age 28 (which…I’ll have you know was AMAZING…no periods…I was like a recreational model!!) hypothyroidism and pituitary gland problems discovered at around age 43. So basically I’m just a walking medical disaster…falling apart as I go.
So there you have it…I AM SICK …eventually…maybe…probably…I’ll end up crippled in a wheelchair. Well…that’s some terrible shit right there…I guess I could be angry but why? It will not change a single thing about my condition. I don’t need help…sympathy…or pity. I will fight every step of the way on my own…I REFUSE to be defined by my diseases…I will live my life IN SPITE of them instead.
© S.L. Heaton 2016
Shawna Heaton, aka Priss, is just a girl with some words. Words that spent entirely too long locked up inside. She’s a mom…grandma…aspiring writer…gym junkie…and all around smart ass. She’s on a journey…she doesn’t know where to but she intends to enjoy the ride.
Follow her extraordinary journey at S.L. Heaton