Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What a Pain

I haven't posted anything for a few days, mostly because I'm so tired, mentally and physically. I've barely been tweeting anything either I feel that blah.

 I'm also noticing what seems to be becoming something of a cycle the last three weeks or so: I do my Methotrexate and Enbrel injections on Wednesday nights, but I don't think the drugs are lasting the full week. Starting Mondays or Tuesdays, I start getting more sore. My hands and feet, plus random other places. On offer today: my knees, elbows, wrists and neck.

Now, all of these places and others are sore/achy/cause brief sharp pain on and off at times, but this is something more consistent. And today they've been hurting for longer periods. I'm not saying they're killing me. This isn't comparable to the pain I felt when I had migraines before going on prophylactics – that pain had me lying on the bathroom floor contemplating smashing my head against the tiled wall to try to counteract the pain (oh, the joys of migraines!).

No, this pain is sharpish, but ongoing. Achy and ongoing. Throbbing and ongoing. And it's that ongoing nature that's set my teeth on edge and – partially – brought tears to my eyes (I say partially because part of the reason my eyes welled up is the thought that there might be no end to this cycle of awfulness...and that there is no end to the RA...).

The only time I ever went to the hospital because of a migraine was the time my doctor and I decided to stop my daily meds to see if the migraines had maybe, just maybe, stopped. I ended up with a migraine that wasn't too bad but that lasted for 72 hours. If the pain had lasted for less time I could have handled it, but by the time it got to about 60 hours, I'd had enough and couldn't take it anymore.

I sincerely believe pain is relative, for me at least. More intense pain of short duration is easier for me to handle than less intense pain of long and consistent duration.

And I'm trying to stay away from Tylenol because I want to get an absolutely unadulterated idea of exactly what the Methotrexate, Enbrel and diclofenac I'm on are doing for me so I can report that to my rheumatologist when I see her next month.

Anyway, that's pretty much it. Except this. If I haven't said it before, I'll say it now: RA seriously sucks.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Book Club Blues

Tonight is my book club meeting, and I haven't read the book. I've skimmed it, but I haven't read it. That's rare for me. I have this sort of ethical belief that if you join a book club, you make a commitment to read the book. You owe it to your fellow members.

The book – really it's two novellas – is by Nathanael West. It's Miss Lonelyhearts and The Day of the Locust. I've only skimmed Miss Lonelyhearts and haven't even looked at The Day of the Locust.

This is the second book club book that I've deliberately not read (the first was Auto da Fé by Elias Canetti, and that was a few years ago). Why did I decide not to read this book now? Because it – like Auto da Fé – is unrelentingly grim, with unsympathetic characters who have few redeeming qualities. It's filled with misery, squalor and little, if any, hope.

And I just don't need that right now. I want happy, happy, happy! Or if not happy, then at least something with some hope, some sign that things might turn out well, could possibly turn out well.

That's the bonus with mysteries – what I curl up with when I don't want to think, or at least only want to think on a certain level. Sure, people die – at least usually – but the detective, in the end, figures out what's happened and all is well with the world once again. Crimes will be committed, another murder will happen, but a detective will come along and solve the case and things will be righted. That's the appeal of crime fiction. Things always work out. The case is always solved.

I love to read books (much more than just mysteries) and am always on the lookout for good books, books that I can totally lose myself in. They're hard to find. There are many books I've read over the years that I've enjoyed, some that I absolutely love. My apartment is filled with books, as you can see from the pictures below – they're on shelves, in cupboards, over doors, everywhere!

But if I'm going to read any type of fiction, I want something other than unremitting bleakness. I have enough bleakness in my life right now, thank you very much. I don't need it in my fiction.

P.S. If anyone has any good book suggestions, I'm always happy to hear them, so please let me know in your comments. I'm going to be off for a couple of weeks soon, and I'm looking for some good reading! (Needless to say, nothing that's grim and nothing but grim!)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Migraine Cure!

I think I've found a cure for migraines: RA!

OK, I'm sure that's not the case – and I don't want to be taken for a crackpot – but I've only had one migraine since getting RA back at the end of November. That is totally unusual for me. The norm would be 3-4 a month.

So what's the deal? Must be the drugs I'm on. First I thought it was the Tylenol Extra-Strength (I was taking 1000 mg daily), but I stopped that about three weeks ago. So I can only presume that the other anti-inflammatory (Voltaren, aka diclofenac) I'm on or the Enbrel or Methotrexate are having some kind of effect on my migraines. Especially since spring and fall are horrible times of year for me, with falling barometric pressure being the worst trigger.

Must discuss with my neurologist next time I see him!

P.S. March 20: It's occurred to me that since there's been no sign of migraines, I can try cutting back on my prophylactic medication, so I started doing that today. I cut my morning dose of Topamax by 25 mg. We'll see how that goes, but I'm happy to be taking as little medication as possible, given how many drugs I'm on overall. Don't get me wrong, I am so thankful for what drugs can do for me – I shudder to think about what life would be like without them – but if I can live life equally well without them, I'm all for that!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Walk with Me

So I've signed up for the Walk To Fight Arthritis, which is taking place in Toronto on May 30. A number of my friends and family are taking part with me, and it's wonderful to have their support.

I was surprised at their reaction to the walk length, though. Participants have the option of walking 1 km or 5 km. I know I can do 1 km, so I thought I'd challenge myself and my sore feet and other joints and sign up for the 5 km.

When I told my sister Jamie, she was a little taken aback. Was she worried about me? No, not at all! She was worried she wouldn't be able to do it and said she might have to grab hold of my belt loops and have me drag her along!

Next, I told Leotard about the length. She joked she'd bring our horse, Lex, along. I said, "Great idea!" Which I thought it was, until she said, "Yeah, so I can jump on him, if I can't finish the walk!" I was like, "What do you mean, if you can't finish???? If anyone is going to have trouble, it's going to be me! It's just a freakin' 5 km! You should be able to do it!"

Next, I was talking to Jane, friend and ex-editor of Style at Home (and present editor of Chatelaine). She'll be doing the walk, too. She said she was going to bring a bike just in case she couldn't finish the walk – um, excuse me, what's with everyone thinking they can't walk 5 km!!!! (OK, I'm sure she was joking, but still!)

Maybe I've just always been a big walker (and, yes, it's true, I love walking – or did before my feet started hurting), but, jeez, I can't believe how freaked out people are by this. Me, yes! Them, no!

P.S. If you'd like to sponsor me, go to this link, enter Frozen Woman under "Team Name," then click on my name (Laurie Grassi) and donate away! Much appreciated!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Ginger & Nausea

In the last few weeks, I've been suffering from nausea on and off, ie., most days, periodically throughout the day. And while it usually doesn't get that bad, it is annoying to say the least. I have no doubt it's a side effect of the Methotrexate injections I'm on once a week or the Voltaren (diclofenac). I hate the idea of taking yet another medication like Gravol to quell the nausea, so I've been resorting to ginger tea for the most part to help out.

Ginger has long been known to be a remedy for upset stomachs and the like (ever have your mum give you some ginger ale – the real stuff – when your tummy ached?). It turns out it actually does work. This study, originally presented by the National Cancer Institute in May 2009, followed 644 patients who were undergoing chemotherapy and found that ginger supplements helped reduce nausea symptoms.

Now, as the study author points out, many teas are likely made with ginger flavouring, not real ginger, but the one I drink is made with real ginger root – I made sure to check. (FYI: It's Stash Lemon Ginger Herbal Tea.) Plus, when I'm at home, I add some grated ginger root. Not only does the tea make me feel better, it's yummy!

And when the nausea gets really bad, there is another option: the makers of Gravol offer Gravol Ginger, a natural product that contains the equivalent of 500 mg of dried ginger root.

My lovely friend Becky was over last night and brought me a fresh supply of Stash. Not only does she keep me supplied with ginger tea, she brought candied ginger, too. It's an amazing treat and something you should try if you never have, but be forewarned! It's sweet, but has an incredible bite and sharpness to it – I don't know how else to describe it. I find it incredibly irresistible!

P.S. Becky also makes the best salads ever!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Noisy Joints

Lately my joints have been going snap, crackle and pop, just like the famous Kellogg's Rice Krispies. They never used to do that, so it's obviously the effects of the rheumatoid arthritis.

Apparently, the official name for when joints grind together is crepitus. It has to do with disease activity – not surprising and this is an official explanation – and I don't like it. Here's another link, too.

One thing I have to say about RA, I never stop learning!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


I went to my first ever meditation session today, and it was fabulous!

It was at work, at lunchtime, was set up by my company's health and safety committee and was totally free, and I decided to go for three reasons:

1. I've been totally stressed out lately by various things non-RA related
2. I feel as though my body is completely out of balance (and not just because of RA)
3. I thought it would be a great way to learn how to deal with the aches and pains of RA

I had no clue what to expect.

We'd been told to eat a light meal before and bring a shawl or sweater in case we got cold during the session, so I brought a large scarf I keep at my desk. I had planned to wear a skirt today, then pondered changing that to jeans this morning, thinking we might be sitting on the floor or something, then vetoed that idea since my knees wouldn't be up to any cross-legged poses. As it turns out, everyone (five of us, all women) sat around a table, which suited me and my achy joints just fine!

Our session leader started us off by telling us what would happen and why there was a box of Kleenex – apparently a lot of people cry when they meditate (I wasn't at all surprised to hear that and said I just might do that myself!).

Next, she had us do a standing stretch, and we shook off our worries, then we sat back down and she began what was basically a breathing/relaxation exercise leading into a visualization exercise that lasted about 20 minutes.

I have to admit, it was hard not to cry when she talked about us having "healthy bodies," and that took me out of the exercise at times, as did my aching hands at the beginning, but overall, the experience was incredibly relaxing. For the most part, it was relatively easy to let my mind wander along with her voice and imagine myself where she was directing us to go mentally and to forget my body, which was the whole point!

There are more sessions offered, so I'll definitely be attending, and then perhaps look into meditation more seriously outside the work environment.

Anything to escape my physical aches and pains, and if I can relax more, even better!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Feelin' Good


Went to the gym today and did 20 minutes on the elliptical and am feeling really good as a result. It wasn't easy particularly – my feet hurt, as did my elbow and shoulder and hands. But I was determined to keep going, and there seem to be no ill effects.

I just feel fabulous for having gotten my heart rate up for a while and a sense of accomplishment for having gotten my sorry, sad butt to the gym finally.

I also feel great because it's a brilliant, sunny day here and 8°C!!! Totally feels like spring, which is wonderful.

All in all, a good, good day!

Friday, March 5, 2010


Quite often lately, I've been overwhelmed by my diagnosis, despite the fact that I'm really doing quite well on my medications.

What RA will mean for me in the long term is something I don't know, though, and right now I can't walk very far, much less work out the way I used to.

However, I came across a picture of this mug the other day when I was scrolling through my other blog, Natural Chic, and, despite its dire message, it made me laugh and feel great, the way it always does.

It's a riff on the popular WWII British poster that carried the slogan Keep Calm and Carry On. You'd think that that would actually be the wording that would make me feel better, but, no, this is the one that works for me.

Go figure!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


I've been getting rid of old stuff lately. Not tons of stuff, just things I have put away here and there that I've been holding on to in case someone wants them or I need them at some point. But let's face it, who needs those sorts of things "at some point" in actual fact?

So out they go!

I've already had one giveway when my sisters and cousin were over the other weekend. I'd had all kinds of things stashed in my linen closet, so much so that I couldn't get at anything easily. So my sisters had fun, and I got rid of stuff.

Now I'm cleaning out other places – drawers, my armoire, everything.

I just want it all gone, and for someone who can get all sentimental about inanimate objects, I really don't care – I'm too tired. I want my life empty and clean. (OK, not really empty. I actually like stuff and clutter, but useful stuff and clutter, like books I love. My dream house is that sort of English country house in which every room is an adventure, filled with interesting objects to explore and discover – but no uninteresting crap!)

Now if only I could shed RA as easily...

Addendum: Just read an article that says we secrete the stress hormone cortisol when surrounded by disarray. Read it here.