I'm still feeling overwhelmed and reeling with the shock of this diagnosis. I was also surprised that in spite of completing a 5 day course of high dose steroids (prednisone), I continued to have significant pain and stiffness in my hands and feet. It's like aliens have taken over my body. That is exactly how I described it to my new BFF, my rheumatologist, and she agreed. "It's a shitty diagnosis," she said.
I couldn't have said it any better.
My diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis requires a shift in my thought processes. Dr V, my sports medicine physician, gave me some advice after my diagnosis. "I know you're not good at taking it easy, " she said, "but you need to give yourself a break. " She's right. This type A++ gal is not good at sitting still, and I'm not good at being the patient. As a nurse practitioner, I'm much more comfortable in the role of caregiver, not care receiver. I don't do well in the role of "sick" person.
Dr A, my rheumatologist, laughed and shook her head as we reviewed my symptoms. All those nagging little aches and pains I have had over the past couple of years? Runners are good at ignoring those, she told me.
Isn't that the truth? Raise your hand if you've done any of the following:
- run on a broken foot?
- took ibuprofen before a run instead of resting an achy hip or knee?
- stopped mid-run to stretch out a cramp or sore foot instead of calling it quits?
- run a marathon with minimal training?
- run with a cold and cough?
- run a race with raging PF?
- run with a Baker's cyst?
- That broken big toe a few years back (I DNS'd a race for that!) that wasn't broken at all? Most likely the start of RA.
- My PF? Probably RA-related.
- That low back pain I feel during yoga twists (SI joint)? RA.
- And of all things, my jaw locking? My dentist told me it is because I clench my teeth. I don't clench. It's RA.
As an activity, running is high impact and puts a lot of stress on our bodies. It's just part of the deal. While I did seek out medical care this year for my PF and the Baker's cyst, I certainly didn't run to the doctor for every little ache and pain. We runners just learn to live with those little niggles. I've been running for 25+ years and I've become accustomed to feeling a little achy at times. Calling the doctor for every minor complaint will get you labeled as a hypochondriac. Trust me on that one.
No guts, no glory!
What doesn't kill you makes you stronger!
Be a warrior, not a worrier!
Pain is just weakness leaving the body!
Anyways. Last week, my body decided it had had enough of my nonsense and waged a full-blown war on itself. That's what RA does. It's an autoimmune disease where the body attacks itself, in this case, the joints. According to Dr A, I have a particularly aggressive presentation. The good news, she told me, is that aggressive RA responds to aggressive treatment. Dr A and I barely shook hands and before I could blink, I was receiving my first dose of methotrexate, a chemo drug which is use in low doses to treat RA. I will be giving myself injections of this medication weekly. I also started on a different steroid (medrol) in a low dose for 6 weeks. Powerful drugs, I'm scared of these medications, but I desperately want to feel better.
I've been given advice from lots of folks about an anti-inflammatory diet. While I can't get over this current flare on diet alone--wouldn't that be great?--diet will be an adjunct to my treatment. High dose Omega-3s and Vitamin D have been prescribed for me.
And yes, I can run. Dr A said to let pain be my guide. When I told her I have a marathon in June, she said that will be our goal, to get me to my race. She wants me to continue all my activities, especially yoga and strength training. No restrictions. I think I found the right doctor.
Just keep moving, she says. So I did.
Earlier in the week, I took advantage of some warmer temperatures by cross country skiing and gentle running (easy and slow). My head needed the miles. As the week wore down, on top of all this, I was developed a cold, which forced me to take it easy. Our weather was pretty brutal in the latter part of the week as well, with sub-zero wind chills. Those workouts were indoors. Saturday's run was outdoors, but slow and admittedly, a little challenging. Was it the YakTrax? The snow? This upper respiratory virus? Or the RA?
|Cross country skiing at the preserve where I do my marathon training! Low impact.|
|A cold, windy warrior 2 on my way to see the rheumatologist. Trying not to be a worrier.|
|35 minutes on the bike trainer, riding with my VBFs in Australia|
|Tuesday's run. Tree pose. Strong.|
First and foremost, I am a runner. That does not change. I look at my new diagnosis as a challenge. As long-time readers know, I'm not one to back down from a challenge. But I'm also not good at setting limits on myself, and that is something I'm going to need to work on. I will evaluate my training as I go, and if I need to reset my goals, I will do that. As I always say, finishing is winning, and finishing will be my primary goal from here on out. Along with having fun on the way.
Onward and upward. Let's do this.
Any readers run while dealing with a chronic illness? Any advice? I want to thank everyone who has commented or reached out to me this week. We have an amazing community here. And yes, I can still run!
I'm linking up this post with Holly and Tricia for their Weekly Wrap as well as Angela and Ilka for the Sunday Fitness and Food Linkup!