Friday, July 30, 2010

One Lovely Blog Award

I've been catching up on all of my blog reading and realized that Helen over at Pens and Needles was kind enough to give me the One Lovely Blog Award! Thanks so much, Helen!

Now it's my turn to pass on the kindness by giving other bloggers with the award – very exciting! So many of the great bloggers I follow on a regular basis and whose posts I love to read have already been honoured, so I'll keep my list pretty short and won't re-reward (so to speak), people.

Here goes:

Feelin' Swell: My Life with RA Squirrel is endlessly funny and her humorous take on living with RA always keeps me feeling positive about things, even when I'm feeling crappy.

All Flared Up: An Arthritis Blog Ditto Amanda, whose sarcastic take on her RA woes slays me every time! Every time!

Bionic Pony Cause she's also funny, plus she's Canadian and loves pie – who needs a better recommendation than that, I ask??

Project Jennifer Jenn has had rheumatoid arthritis since she was a wee babe – she was diagnosed when she was 9 months old – and I am in awe of her and her positive attitude. She's a true inspiration.

The Seated View Lene is an artist, philosopher, writer and, oh yes, blogger! Check out her blog and learn...

Dual Sport Life This dude just keeps on biking, no matter what, and that's amazing to me and a great lesson to us all.

There are so many other great bloggers and blogs out there – this is just a teeny-tiny sampling – but I can't say enough about how much all of you inspire, support and comfort me through this journey that is RA. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

:) Laurie

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A-OK – For the Most Part

My hemoglobin count has improved, so yay!!

Now if this flare would just come to an end, I'd be very, very happy...

That's all.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

An Invisible Disability, a Chronic Illness and Me: Rheumatoid Arthritis

Today, July 24, BloggersUnite is asking everyone to take the time on to raise awareness about people with disabilities: People First: Empowering People with Disabilities is important and not just for the obvious reasons.

The World Health Organization defines disability as: "an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and  participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function  or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in  life situations. Thus disability is a complex phenomenon,  reflecting an interaction between features of a person’s body and  features of the society in which he or she lives."

Making disability even more complex is what is termed an invisible disability: one that isn't immediately apparent. Chronic illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis fall under this category. Add to that the intermittent nature of some of the symptoms of some of those illnesses and things are complicated even further.

I have rheumatoid arthritis, but I don't think of myself as disabled.

To look at me, you'd think I was fine. I can say this, though.

At my bus station, I can catch any one of four buses that drive past my street. Each bus stops at a different spot in the station, and those spots are strung out at increasing distances from the subway entrance. I used to be able to run for the furthest bus as I came up from the subway if I saw it waiting there. Now, chances are that's no longer possible: my feet usually hurt, and even if they're not actually hurting at the moment, running on hard pavement will make them hurt. If I see a bus, I sometimes walk toward it, but the buses often just leave. Sorry Mr. or Mrs. Bus Driver: I may look like I could run or walk a lot faster, but I can't...

I love to walk and often made the 25-minute trip home from the subway station to my place on foot, making sure to wear reasonably comfortable shoes, but managing regardless. Now, even with the most comfortable shoes, it's not always possible. Heck, the other day I walked down the street for dinner with a friend, a distance of no more than about 500 metres. My feet were hurting so I was taking it slowly, even though it was a very short distance. On the way back, my foot started hurting so much I couldn't help but limp badly. Sorry, car drivers: I may look like I should be able to walk faster through the intersection to clear that light, but I can't...

But I'm actually one of the lucky ones. There are others who have it much worse.

Nonetheless, to keep myself that lucky, and to keep myself from being incapacitated, I do a number of things:

• I shoot myself full of drugs once a week, drugs that yearly cost as much as a really nice new car, drugs that are used to treat cancer patients
• Every day, I top that off with a drug to prevent the side effects of the cancer drug, side effects like hair loss (tell that to the hair that washes down the drain each shower or floats around my apartment with the breezes), side effects like nausea (I keep candied ginger on hand to quell that – good thing I love ginger!)
• Every day, twice a day, I take a drug that eats away at my stomach
• Every day,  I take another drug that's supposed to prevent that but that may cause my bones to break instead
• Every day, to round that all out, I take supplements to protect my bones, my heart and my joints, and keep eye drops beside my bed, because the arthritis and the drugs can affect all parts of my body, including my heart and lungs and eyes, not just my joints

Can you say really crap disease??

I may look like I'm fine.

I'm one of the lucky ones.

Imagine those who are not.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Getting More and More Sore...

...and I'm not liking it one bit! I don't know if it's linked to the low hemoglobin levels, but we should have those results soon, I would think.

Had a look at the requisition form and my rheumatologist is checking everything iron-related under the sun:

• ferritin
• Vitamin B12
• TIBC (iron binding capacity)
• TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone)

I guess the last one can affect your iron/hemoglobin levels – can't find a connection and am too tired to look further. Sorry!

I think she was running the usual AST and ALT liver tests again, too.

There might have been others, but that's all I remember...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Low Hemoglobin

Went for my regular blood tests on Monday and got a call from my rheumatologist's office today. The lovely receptionist (she's always so friendly and pleasant!) told me that the doctor wanted me to go in for some further blood tests because my hemoglobin levels are low, apparently.

Chronic diseases can cause anemia, appropriately and incredibly obviously called anemia of chronic disease, lol! That's what happens when ongoing inflammation means your body produces too many white blood cells and not enough red, and, therefore, not enough hemoglobin – to grossly simplify things. Here's another link that explains that the only way to treat this type of anemia is by treating the disorder that causes it (or in rare severe cases, through transfusions or drugs that stimulate the bone marrow).

So that could be what's happening, but let's hope it's just a wee blip on the lab's part.

So, back to the lab on Monday to get more blood drawn – not enough hemoglobin, so let's take some more out to make sure you've got actually got enough, and it wasn't all a mistake!

Just kidding! I do know it's necessary, just strikes me as rather funny...

Monday, July 12, 2010

Why I Hate Bugs

Last week I took two mini vacays: one east of Toronto, one west. Had a great time on both, just relaxing, lying around, reading, eating (lots!! including ice cream that tastes like roasted marshmallows!!), visiting with family – you get the picture. Spent a lot of time outdoors in the shade, since it was way too hot in the sun – we had a heat wave here in Southern Ontario, and I don't like the sun at the best of times, so I wasn't going to be lolling about in it.

During the day being outdoors was fine, but at night the biting buggies come out, and I hate them with a passion, mainly because they love me with a passion! My Italian relatives say it's because I have sangue dolce or sweet blood, and they must be right, since a group of us can be sitting around a campfire, and while others may get a bite or two or be ignored totally by those flying pests, I invariably end up with tons of bites unless I smother myself with bug spray (which I hate doing, especially any DEET-based chemical crap).

So I either cover myself up totally – not nice when it's bloody hot out – or give up and go inside. One night while out east, I did cover myself up – head and all – with a quilt because I didn't want to miss all the fun, and that worked pretty well, even though I looked like an idiot. Total bites: 1.

This past weekend, I wasn't so careful. The bugs weren't around initially, and I wasn't out that long once they did begin their reign of terror. I had on loose canvas pants, a T-shirt, sweater, shoes, socks and a rainjacket. I even put a seat cushion on the chair I was sitting on so the mean little critters couldn't bite my thighs or back (those suckers can bite through anything, I swear!). Total bites: 6.

One of them is pictured above. What is it? Who knows. Mosquito? Black fly? Tarantula?

Not all the bites look like that (thank god, the one on my face doesn't!). Some are more white looking and slightly swollen (the bonus of RA and anti-inflammatories: the bites no longer puff up like crazy the way they used to!). Some have red edges. It's like bug artwork...very designer-like!

And, no, RA has nothing to do with the reactions themselves. I've always reacted badly to bites. Or at least in my adulthood. As a kid I'd run around all summer long outdoors all day every day into the night well through dusk with no bug spray and didn't have a problem. I got bit, but not that often, and didn't react badly.

And people wonder why I freak out at the sight of a mosquito and won't stay outside...