Mama, I got the rheumies! (or, Finding out I had rheumatoid arthritis)

Last October, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. That was kind of a bummer, because last summer, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. And prior to that, I was diagnosed with chronic migraines and IBS and herniated discs and occipital neuralgia… ya that’s all the physical things in a nutshell. Okay there’s some others but I can FEEL you getting bored.

So you can see how I was a little… disturbed. A normal person would be disturbed by that diagnosis. But I’d spent several years getting increasingly sick and isolated. I spent a lot of time on my couch, not seeing my friends. Canceling on plans I’d actually managed to make with friends or family. Becoming a hermit. Not going out to restaurants with my boyfriend very often (if ever, okay, to be honest). Doing almost nothing outside other than playing pinball occasionally and traveling to and from the office, which was a rarity because I worked from home most of the time. It was exceptionally depressing.

When I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, everything fell into place. Why were my headaches getting worse and worse? Not just because of the fall I’d sustained when I was 16, but because my immune system was attacking the top joint in my neck (that’s the only joint in your spine, btw). Why all the gastrointestinal problems over the last several years? Well, people with RA happen to have a lot of gastrointestinal problems. Why did I get sesamoiditis a while back and end up with my foot in a boot for several months? Because it wasn’t sesamoiditis at all. It was a rheumatoid arthritis flare and my then-doctor was wrong… which happens all the time. In fact, having a flare-up in that particular joint is very common as a first-place for a rheumatoid arthritis flare. Diagnosing RA is a real bitch and often takes years. You need to do a lot of tests (blood tests, sometimes xrays, sometimes MRIs, you need to see a few different kinds of specialists to rule out certain things, which I’d already done prior to seeing a rheumatologist). Plus you talk to the rheumatologist about your history, of course. They look at your joints, talk about stiffness in the morning (hehehe). WELL I have it, folks. I have it. It runs in my family, and poof, I have it.

I’d been getting sicker and sicker for years, and now I know why, FINALLY. A DIAGNOSIS. If you are a chronically sick person, you know exactly what kind of feeling I had in that diagnostic moment. Terror? Yes. But relief? Also, yes. It’s horrible not knowing what’s wrong with you. When I found out what was wrong, though, I could finally do something about it. That put me, at long last, on the offensive. I had power. I had agency. Look the fuck out, because I’d spent years being attacked by my body and finally had the opportunity to do something about it. I was about to get very aggressive…

“Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind…” (Chapter 38, Book of Job, King James Version)

Friends, I am displeased to inform you that the gastrointestinal issues I mentioned in my previous post have returned in a slightly varied form.  I consulted with a gastroenterologist who believes I may have ulcerative colitis (UC).  To the two or three people who read my posts, you will know that I already “enjoy” a few separate chronic health issues already and, moreover, my most recent joy in life is cooking.  If I do have UC I will likely have to restrict my diet even further than I have been and it will be potentially physically and certainly emotionally devastating.

When I was but a young thing in college I took a class on the Book of Job. This came not long after dealing with a few personal tragedies in my life (one of which was the death of my Aunt Ellen; I was very close with her).  How obvious, looking back, that I was grappling with why good things happen to people for no apparent reason and mysteriously decided to take a class in the religion department (while a music major) that would focus solely on the story of a good man targeted by God not for being a bad man, but simply to test his endurance.

If I am diagnosed with UC, will I have ANY moments of relief between that, chronic migraines, constant upper neck and upper back pain, and occipital neuralgia?  Job was a fictitious person as far as I’m concerned, plus, he eventually buckled and cursed God in the end.  Otherwise, God wouldn’t have appeared “out of the whirlwind” to give Job a good long tongue lashing for being such a whiner (c’mon, God, you had Job sitting on a pile of poo, covered in boils, all his wealth taken, all his beloved family killed, his livestock destroyed… God wasn’t a very forgiving God in the Old Testament, was He?).  Still I think of Job.  Do I think it would take someone so long to curse God in the real world as it took Job?  No.  But I do think it’s telling that anyone could have conceived of such a person, even in a story.  There was someone somewhere who believed a human being could endure inconceivable tortures.  Endure with a continuing love for the thing most important to that person, in this case, God.

I will endeavor to endure for my own reasons and continue to love the things and people I have loved.  At this point I can only endeavor.  But the desire to endure is a beginning.

Tomorrow I will do a Nuprep cleanse (it clears out your bowels… yaaaaaay…) and on Monday I get a colonoscopy, when I will find out whether or not I am looking forward to UC.  I am hoping to have some tips to surviving the Nuprep, which I will probably not be able to do until late Monday or Tuesday once I have news.