While I am fairly IT-savvy and well-accustomed to sourcing information from the web, I am relatively new to blogging. I have generally played the part of the invisible voyeur, stealthily scrutinising others' blogs to feed my insatiable appetite for information, and only rarely reaching out with a comment or personal message to a kindred spirit.
Until now. Now I figure it is my turn to give something back in return for all the support and information I have gleaned.
But I am no expert; far from it! It is not even one year since I was diagnosed with RA, and I still struggle each day with the toll that RA and its treatments exert on my body. How do I tell what is normal and what is not ... and what is "normal for me"? What does the future hold? What things trigger my flares, or even the odd day-to-day aches, pains and twinges?
I keep a diary to try to identify triggers (foods, physical activity, alcohol, shoes, medications, weather, etc) but so far the only pattern I've identified is that there is no pattern! I guess that, in time, and with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, I'll be better able to answer these questions and address some of my fears. But patience has never been one of my virtues ... I wanna know now!
I have long suspected I might be arthritic at some point in my life. I took after my Dad's side of the family. My paternal grandmother suffered from extensive OA for as long as I can remember. Her mother (my great grandmother) had RA, and although she passed away when I was barely a teenager, I remember vividly how she suffered, though I never heard her complain. Although this was back in the 1960s when I was just a child, I can still recall her pain, immobility, appallingly deformed fingers, and the funny little bended spoons and other assistive utensils that my inventive great grandfather made for her (long before occupational therapists and the range of appliances we have today).
But my own diagnosis came out of left field.
2009 had already been the year from Hell, with major surgery, then a surprise diagnosis of breast cancer, with months of treatment. But I pulled through, with the support of my amazing husband and some equally amazing friends, colleagues and family. Three months after commencing Tamoxifen (for breast cancer) and the side effects of sudden oestrogen suppression were in full swing (think "slamming headlong into chemically-induced menopause" ... overnight!). But coinciding with the side effects were some equally sudden joint pains. They came from nowhere, and seemed to attack every joint, especially in my shoulders, feet, ankles, wrists, fingers, and thumbs. And then there was the swelling, although it wasn't obviously just in the joints. For instance, my entire feet were swollen ... of the three pairs of new shoes that I bought six weeks earlier, two no longer fit me, and the third was tight.