RA Ostrich No More: Making Positive Healthcare Changes

Vanessa Collins Health Guide

    I have been trying to get my RA under control for over a year now. I have been diligent about getting my blood work done, keeping my appointments, and taking all my medications on schedule. That is a good thing, and I have made some progress with my RA. The bad thing is, I have been ignoring just about everything else.


    Let's start with the teeth, shall we? Seems as though I have extra dry eyes and a very dry mouth. For example, I cannot eat a cracker without a water chaser or I choke. This will be a topic of discussion at my next RD appointment. As I discovered when I visited the dentist in November, dry mouth leads to more cavities. An hour and a half in the dentist chair, and $460.00 later, I walked out with a numb mouth, and a new appreciation for flossing every day. No more bubble gum for me!

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    Then there is the issue of prednisone. I am prediabetic, and have been for seven years. I have been able to avoid diabetes by controlling my diet and exercising. That was before RA. Now there are days I can barely walk, let alone do the extreme workouts I have in years past. Add to that the fact that prednisone has a tendency to raise glucose levels on its own, and Ai Yi Yi! I let myself sink into denial about my prediabetes, even though I know prednisone raises blood glucose levels.


    The last two weeks I just couldn't understand why I was craving cookies and ice cream. Aside from than the fact that cookies and ice cream are my two favorite foods, I do know better. The truth hit me on the head like a satellite falling from the sky this afternoon. I had a high protein, low fat breakfast this morning, and a low carb, high protein lunch. Shizam!!! I had absolutely no craving for sweets this evening. I didn't even eat dinner. I'm just not hungry...and yes, I did take my 10 mg of prednisone today as prescribed. The Halloween candy korn in the kitchen will remain there.


    In light of this new flash of reality in my life, I have my boiled eggs ready for breakfast. I also have a protein bar for lunch, along with a nice fresh apple for a snack all ready for tomorrow. I'm thinking some of my energy may come back, and perhaps I won't be longing so to get off work and rush home to stuff my face with iced gingerbread cookies the rest of the week. I'm not quite up to testing my glucose level. Maybe tomorrow. Again...what was I thinking?!?


    I never have put off my mammograms, but I have put off the yearly pap smear routine. I had a hysterectomy in 1993, and so I was thinking it wasn't all that important. Wrong. Besides the dry mouth and dry eyes, I also have dry “personal” areas. So dry it is painful. Enough said!


    If I had been going for my yearly checkups, this situation would have been caught sooner. I would have avoided many serious UTIs last year caused by the lack of estrogen allowing my ureter to remain partially open. That left my body open to all kinds of nasty, antibiotic resistant bugs. Not something I like to talk about, but I think it is important for you to know. No worries. Estrace cream will fix the problem.


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    I am 57, and I have yet to have a Colonoscopy. My PCP has let me off the hook until next Spring because I have had so many other issues this year. I just didn't want to deal with something else when I saw her in November. Still, I know she is right. I will be having a Colonoscopy sometime after the flowers push up through the melting snow and the sun once again warms the air in Missouri.


    My RD did talk to me at our last appointment about the heart issues those of us with RA may develop. She told me that we can end up w/blood vessels in our hearts that are similar to those of diabetics. In short, the “entire vessel” gets partially “clogged”, not just one spot that can be easily opened with a stint. Oh, joy! I also have had high blood pressure for decades. It just runs in my family. One more thing to think about.


    At my last appointment with my PCP, she added a third blood pressure medicine because she wants my bp to be lower than it is. I must say the new med is helping. I don't have the racing heart feeling in my chest anymore. Again, what was I thinking?!? I was totally blowing off my blood pressure. I had not taken a bp reading in almost a year. I just ignored the heart palpitations I was experiencing. I simply did not want to deal with anything else. Dig a hole in the sand and let me stick my head in it! I really don't want to be an RA Ostrich, do you?!?


    I have a lot of work to do re: taking charge of my health, and for some reason, I'm not resenting it anymore. Living with RA is a full-time job, and we don't want to ignore our hearts and the rest of our body. Truth is, we can't! I am still fully determined to concentrate on finding the right med combo for RA. I'm just not going to exist in an RA bubble anymore. I am more than my RA. My body is more than my RA. I want to be around to live and laugh for a long time. We all have choices. Sometimes we just want to run away, but that isn't a good choice. Time to wake up and smell the coffee, Vanessa. Speaking of coffee, I hear my decaffeinated, sugar free mocha calling me from the kitchen. I will be thinking of all of you while I drink my brew. I hope you, too, decide to take stock of your health, and make any changes you and your health care professionals deem necessary. Cheers!

Published On: November 08, 2011