Getting Help for R.A.

25 08 2008

This weekend has been one of those bummer ones that flies by while I’ve been struggling from hour one to get on a good page. I had to break out the old cane again as I struggled to move around the house. On Saturday Jax played some Rifts game all day and on Sunday he went go-kart racing with his buddies and I was truly happy he got a chance to have a great weekend. We had a nice meal out on Saturday night, but honestly I was such a grump he had a tough job of trying to keep my mind positive. (Read who Jax and I are here).

I wanted to be positive so badly. I worked on my visualization techniques and even wrote out an entire positive future for myself that I am certain will really happen. I am certain that it is already happening. (as I type away my wrists are begging me to stop). My immediate reality is quite different than the visualizing I did. My Dr.’s office readjusted my pump (posts on my pump & chronic pancreatitis). They set it way to low in an effort to have me try out this “remote” which could be amazing if they hadn’t of taken my overall medicine level so darn low.

The other hurdle is PMS – Anytime I have PMS or just start to bleed I get much worse RA. My symptoms are flaring and I feel 90. I slept a lot which reminded me of how much i used to sleep before I got the proper treatment. I’m also waiting to switch doctors but need to have a bit more time to take care of that issue. My current rheumie Dr is such an arrogant prick. His staff are always on edge and I swear they hate everyone. Not the type of environment I like to live in.

As i was feeling sorry for myself (well – only a tad bit as i always work hard to keep my ego in check) and also as I began working on my fundraising work for my project with these incredible at-risk teen girls I wanted to write for a few minutes. Honestly it is so i can take a break from my visualization work. Anyhow, Jax and I just ordered groceries online. We’ve done this about 5 times now from and i am so amazed at how good the service is. You can create a list and re-use it again and again. Also, with RA I can hardly walk much less carry heavy groceries from the car (we live on a busy street with only street parking about 2 blocks away). (see blog called “your searching for” with many readers questions answered.)

I found a new comment from a reader Heidi that really affected me. i could totally understand where she is at – so i want to share it with you all. This is only a piece of her comment. She wrote for awhile about how she had to watch her dad suffer her whole life with RA. He is dead now and it was very sad to hear her fears.

I am scared after watching what my father endured for almost 30 years. I now have bumps on the top of both wrists and can barely button my sons shirt. The flare-ups seem to be closer and closer and last longer. I have lost 55 lbs. in the last 9 months. The pain is now getting more prominent in my elbows, toes, hips, etc. I have been running my whole life, it’s sorta like a meditation for me and the thought of not being able to run one day depresses me.

I am looking at getting into UCI in souther california, but I don’t know where I stand with no medical insurance. I guess I just need someone to tell me how important this is. My career may soon be over and I will have to start a new one as my hands seem to be deteriorating before me. Can anyone offer advice please? I would truly appreciate it. – Heidi

I would love to try to be of help to Heidi. Naturally, this is my opinion only and I am not a Dr. First, if you think you have RA which sure sounds like it – you MUST get insurance – job or no job. I can’t imagine the battle ahead if you don’t have it. I’m not sure what state you live in, but perhaps you belong to a group or organization that offers insurance to members. Also, I went to an insurance broker and got an individual plan which costs about the same as if I had it through a job. I got the number from my internist.  (Also, see comments below for great info for Heidi from reader Sheryl and also a wonderful letter from reader Linda).

Next, get the insurance BEFORE getting treated or a diagnosis. right now you don’t officially have a pre-existing condition. This is a very good thing. In fact, as hellish as you might feel about things right now it could really be god looking out for you – and i’m not a religious person at all. But seriously, it is good that you get the insurance clean with nothing like RA on your records.

Then, after you have the insurance (can take a total of 15 days) you can see a doctor within their network. I would always recommend the UCLA Medical Center. They have great ratings and have been great to me. I’m not sure what UCI is – but USC Med Center also has great doctors. Like I said, my Dr. is a prick, otherwise i would recommend him. You can also get a recommendation from the family doctor – I’ve found my best doctors this way. Once you get an appointment there is a key few things to prepare yourself.

Don’t worry about what your friends think about this situation. Don’t worry about being a hypochondriac. Only be concerned with positive solutions. Also, don’t worry yourself sick over this situation. It will only make RA worse if that is what you have. In fact, stress will make everything worse. Work stress is what kicked my RA into high gear.

You might have sero-negative rheumatoid arthritis. (More on this topic here). That means that it won’t show up in bloodwork as traditional RA, but it is just as much RA as any other. This is what happened to me. I had a few years of symptoms but no doctor could offer a solution. I commonly got diagnosed with lupus. I have a few symptoms of lupus that bare not part of RA so the verdict is still out on that one – but I’m confident that my positive visualization will keep some of those symptoms at bay for now. (That’s not to say that thinking positively or negatively would change the seriousness of my health issues, nor do i believe that negative thoughts caused my diseases. sometimes it is environment, stress, genetics, and various other uncontrollable reasons).

The Dr. found that my hands showed the already severe RA damage in my MRI scans. They had me choose a hand. I randomly picked the left one. The bone damage alone allowed my Dr’s to treat me for RA and to give that diagnosis.

I’ve often said that medicine is in the dark ages. Dr’s must rely on bloodwork as the tell-all answer for their entire treatment plan. Some Dr’s may want to try a particular drug, but health insurance companies dictate how Dr’s can perform. It is totally bass ackwards!

I will warn you that initially they may try to put you on prednisone to allow motion to come back to you. This was the worst decision for me and I regret taking it. (More posts about prednisone here).  I wish I knew the side effects ahead of time. I wished I had joined weight watchers at the very start of treatment. I’m finally fitting into size 10 clothes again but it’s been 8 months!!! And forget the weight – what it did to my liver is unthinkable!! The same happened to me on Methotrexate – but once I was on Enbrel i was finally on the path to recovery.

My blog is all about my journey from pre-diagnosis to the early days of discovery. Using the calendar at the right you’ll be able to trace back how I have coped (or not) with all of this. My issue was less about buttons since I have all pull-ons and zippers – but more about work, typing, walking, loving, living. I hope this info helps.   Please let me know.

Love, Sasha xoxoxoxo




One response

26 08 2008

Hey Sasha, Just wanted to offer a doctor tip for Heidi since I am in the LA area, too. I see Dr. Alan Gorn at UCLA and he is great. She can also call her local Arthritis Foundation to get some doctor reps in her specific area. The best thing she can do is be proactive and keeping pushing foward even on the days it seems like the system might be against her. There are so many good meds out there for RA that our doctors should be able to improve our symptoms and if they don’t, it’s time to get a new doctor.

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