Jingle Bell Run/Walk Update

He finally talked me into joining him this year!

My friend Mike has been doing the Jingle Bell Run here in our town for several years. He’s a great athlete, and he and I have been teammates, colleagues and friends for a long time. Honestly, he’s the brother I didn’t have biologically. We just “get” each other!

This year, after hearing about my RA diagnosis, he “nudged” me to participate in the Jingle Bell Run. It didn’t take much nudging even though I really hate the cold. I also haven’t been able to run for over 10 years due to OA in my right knee. So we decided to walk the Jingle Bell course together!

We organized friends into a team (including my husband). But everyone ended up pooping out for one reason or another. Funny, the lady with RA shows up but everybody else wimps out. Okay, except my darling husband who had a kidney stone. He gets a free pass this year! ;-)

Last week the weather forecast was … rain, rain, rain. Sunday arrived and the forecast was still rain all day. Did I mention that I really truly hate the rain? Know it was going to be cold, I had headed to the outdoor gear store and purchased some “base layers.” (When did they stop calling it long underwear?) But rain?

Thank goodness for the golf rain pants that I borrowed from my husband, who is 5 inches taller and 50 pounds heavier. Rolled up and rolled down, the pants did the trick. Although I felt like Ms. Michelin for sure!

On the other hand, I had so much water in my shoes and socks by mile 2.5 that we decided I was “gellin'” like they say on that commercial. Next time – better winter shoes!

But, in the big scheme of things, I am so grateful for Mike’s support. The best part was seeing all of the folks who had contributed or raised money for the Arthritis Foundation. Huge crowd of runners/walkers despite the weather! And darn, it was a fun way to spend a few hours.

Oh and by the way, my biggest side effect was the need for lots of sleep afterwards. Big nap within a few hours and long hours of sleep that night. Not bad … I think I’d do this again.

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Exercise Woes and Gratitude

I am now thankful everyday for everything that I can do. I have clients, friends, and family members who hurt a lot more than I do. But every once in a while I just wish I could still do what I used to do — without pain and/or debilitating fatigue.

Here’s a little history (not that you asked!) … When I was in my 20’s I realized that I got depressed. I took medication and got counseling – both helped.

When I was in my 30’s I discovered that writing myself a “prescription” for exercise was a great anti-depression boost with no side effects. I have used exercise in combination with as-needed counseling ever since. And this strategy seems to hold my depressive tendencies at bay.

Since I started to experience RA symptoms, it has become harder to follow my “normal” exercise routine. At first I just pooped out and said, “oh well I’m just too tired for anything extra.” Definitely not good thinking for my mental or physical state! Since learning about the benefits of exercise for RA, I have re-tooled my approach.

Now instead of 4-5 days a week of hard exercise (90-min. Power Vinyasa yoga or workouts with a personal trainer friend), I am aiming for 5-6 days a week of light to medium exercise. So far that has included 1-2 days of Bikram yoga, a long walk or two, and some sessions with the Wii Fit Plus. I have to plan carefully because my job as a massage therapist is physical too, which tends to wear me out when combined with exercise.

I know this is a lot more intense exercise than many other RA’ers can do each week. And for that I am incredibly grateful. I will keep hanging in there because for me exercise is 75% about my mind and 25% about my body. I’d really like to avoid adding an antidepressant to the ever growing list of meds.

So I guess that despite the title … this turned out to be a lot more gratitude than woes.

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I 100% Love this MD …

Rheumatologist number two is the winner. He is fantastic! And I am so grateful to have a caring and knowledgable doctor in my corner. Here’s why I think he’s so great:

1. The appointment started in his office, then moved to the exam room later. (Previous Rheumy kept me in hospital gown and on exam table where my feet didn’t touch the ground for entire appointment!)
2. He spent a solid hour with me.
3. He answered every question without condescending and with just enough detail.
4. He was so careful about the physical exam – both by being thorough and by making sure he didn’t hurt me.
5. He seemed to enjoy showing me the details from my hand & foot xrays.
6. I asked for two more tests – one blood test (for celiac) and one x-rays of my knees. He agreed 100% with both ideas.
7. He seemed to expect me to participate in decisions regarding meds and treatment plans. Normally I have to push for that. Happy to be on the same wavelength!
8. I like that he seems to be a bit of a rebel.
9. I love that he understood how important my career is to me, and encouraged me to continue.

However, I am concerned about what seem to be a couple of downsides.

1. DMARDs (Plaquenil) have begun, since we now have definitive diagnosis based on x-rays and additional blood tests. He downplayed the possibility of any eye-related toxicity. But instead, I wish he would have sent me to an opthamologist for baseline field of vision tests. This means I will have to stay on top of side effects and options with a lot of detail, although I suspect I would have done that anyway. I’m planning to call his office and ask for an order since I already made the opthamologist appointment.

2. He’s older than me, which means at some point he will stop practicing. But I’ll just cross that bridge when I come to it …

Bottom line … I’m happy. So far, so good!

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Next Up …

I officially organized all my RA-related medical stuff into a binder today. Tabs for Tests, Imaging, MD Notes, Medications and Primary Care Info. Did I forget anything important? Not too many papers right now, but it’s better than a crazy messy folder full of confusing stuff. I know I’ll be glad I did this.

And tomorrow is the appointment with the second Rheumatologist. Read through the recent X-Ray report and Googled some terms so I’m prepared. Gathering my questions together. Turns out maybe hubby can go with me … but we’re not sure. Really hoping I like this guy …

Plus we found out that the nearby teaching hospital will be on our new insurance as of Jan. 2010. So I will have the option of that Rheumatology practice again … kinda wish I hadn’t cancelled the late-December appointment I had with them. Oh well …

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