Traveling with Rheumatoid Arthritis: You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide

Leslie Rott Health Guide
  • I’ve been traveling for dissertation research, so I’ve been absent here and on my blog. I’ve been quite busy. And I wanted to leave RA in the dust. I wanted to travel on a relentless schedule and come home feeling fabulous.


    Wishful thinking? I think so…


    Because I didn’t really leave RA in the dust. And I can’t really run away from RA, per se, but I can try and walk away, albeit very, very slowly.


    My need to recover hasn’t been as bad as I would have expected, but I haven’t escaped unscathed. And I haven’t finished my traveling.


    I was traveling in Michigan, and then was in California for several days. And I’m headed off to Chicago next.

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    When I arrived in California, I discovered that my left ankle was swollen and painful. I attribute this event to sitting on a plane for over four hours. I don’t experience visible inflammation in areas other than my fingers and knees very often, so when it does happen, I take notice. My ankle seemed to have gotten better, but now the pain is back.


    And my sleeping and eating schedule was so off from being on Pacific time as opposed to Eastern time. I ended up getting some pretty severe headaches, but was impressed by my body’s ability to not go completely rogue on me when I was pushing it to the limit. I even missed meds one day, and while I’m not proud of that, I’m happy to say that I don’t think it threw things totally off kilter.


    Is this a breakthrough? Does this mean that my illnesses have evolved? Have I evolved as a patient? Has my body evolved to a more “normal” rhythm? I don’t want to get overly excited about this.


    I need to maintain. Even if I am feeling better for longer stretches at a time, or I’m feeling good after activities that typically used to make me feel bad, I need to be prepared for anything and everything. I need to hope for the best and be prepared for the worst.


    If I get too confident, if I get cocky, I know that’s when my illnesses will come back with a vengeance. They will leave me in the dust, and all that I’ve accomplished will be lost. I’m not sure how I got to this point. How I got to the point where things became manageable.


    But I do feel like I’ve been floundering a bit, and that’s the main reason I haven’t posted here in several weeks. My dissertation research is taking center stage, and my health is being moved off into the periphery. I know that this is dangerous territory. I know that I’m skirting a boundary that once I cross, it will be very difficult to go back to the other side. But I don’t really have a choice. I am bound and determined to finish my Ph.D., no matter what anyone says or does to make me feel like I can’t. I can. And I will.


    I’d love to thumb my nose at illness and call it a day. But I can’t do that. I can’t control my illnesses, but I do control what I do, and what I put into my body. Eating on the road has been a bit difficult. I wouldn’t say that I overindulged, but I did eat fast and without really much thought.


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    My days have been filled with interviewing, attending workshops, and taking in the culture of the groups that I am studying. All of that came first, while making sure I got enough sleep, ate well, and took my meds, came second. And not a close second, either.


    It’s easy to get seduced when I’m acting like my old self and feeling mostly like my old self, but it shouldn’t take bottoming out or a flare to bring me back to reality.


    Do you ever feel this way?


    What’s the most difficult thing for you about traveling?


    Leslie Rott is the author of the blog Getting Closer to Myself and the organizer of the patient-centered blog carnival Patients for a Moment.

Published On: July 14, 2011