The Gift of a Pain-Free Day

I should feel lucky, I guess. Most of the time I forget I even have a disease. After years of trying different treatments, I found a drug that manages my Rheumatoid Arthritis so well that I rarely have any symptoms at all. Add to that the fact that it goes into remission when I’m pregnant. So basically, for more than two years (and almost all my married life), I’ve been virtually R.A. free. I almost forgot what life with R.A. feels like.

And then suddenly, out of nowhere, I am rudely reminded that I have a chronic disease. It comes back with a vengeance.

Last Friday morning I woke up with a swollen knee. I had gone to a spin class at the gym the day before, so I figured that maybe my knee was reacting that workout. I thought that, as usual, it would be fine the next day so I just needed to wait it out. Only this time, as the day went on it kept swelling.

Saturday it was worse. We were headed up to Denver to stay overnight with some friends so Chris could run a half marathon early Sunday morning. By the time we reached Denver, my knee was bigger than I’d ever seen it. Along with the swelling, it was painful to bear weight on, and I had a very limited range of motion – I could neither straighten it nor bend it even 90 degrees.

Because it was the weekend, my doctor’s office was closed, which meant the only thing I could do was take Advil. Lots of it. So I did, but it seemed to make no difference. The swelling and pain continued to get worse.

We don’t see these friends too often and I really wanted to enjoy the time with them, but the R.A. overshadowed everything. I couldn’t focus on anything else. The pain overwhelmed me. I tried to ignore it, but found that impossible. Walking was painful, standing was painful, sitting was painful, sleeping was painful. Getting in and out of the car was painful.

Sunday morning, Chris left for his race at 4:30 am, and I desperately wanted to be there to cheer him on. At the very least, I wanted to meet him at the finish line, but I couldn’t. I could barely walk to the bathroom so there was no way I would make it through the park. I was crushed.

My frustration grew later that morning when he told me what a fantastic race he had and that not only had he met his goal, but he had set a PR. Of all the races to have to miss…

We spent the afternoon in Wash Park, and although it has become one of my favorite spots in Denver, I had a hard time enjoying it. It was a perfect day. I was with my adorable kids and my extremely happy husband. The weather was gorgeous and the park was full with people. Runners, cyclists, moms with strollers, roller bladers, kids on the playground, an outdoor yoga class. There was even a Dixieland jazz band playing live music. As we sat and listened, we found out the rather ironic fact that they were playing for people walking in a walk through the park to raise money for …

wait for it …

arthritis research. I am not making this up. It felt like someone’s idea of a cruel joke.

While I tried my best to enjoy the weekend, the pain made it difficult. And quite forcefully reminded me what a horrible disease Rheumatoid Arthritis is.

There’s something even worse than the pain, though. It’s the fear. For five days, I was consumed with unanswerable questions. What brought this on? How long would it last? What if I couldn’t get flare up under control? What if I stopped responding to the medicine? What if I wasn’t able to get the swelling to go down and it kept getting worse? What if I lost all mobility? How could I take care of my kids?

Through all of this, my husband was my rock. He is truly God’s gift to me, and proved to me (once again) that marrying him is the best thing I’ve ever done. In fact, in trying to figure out why God might be allowing me to have this disease and suddenly go through such awful pain, one thing I know for certain is that He wants me to realize what an amazing man my husband is.

I want to end this post on a positive note, so I’m happy to tell you that (with the help of a steroid injection on Monday afternoon, restarting the R.A. drug and a few days of taking it easy) I feel almost normal again. But after five days of not being able to sleep, walk without limping or pick up my baby easily, I am extremely grateful for how much better I’m feeling now.

I wrote this post because I don’t want to take one single day for granted. Every day that I have with little or no pain is a gift. So even though (thankfully) the drugs seem to have started doing their thing again in holding my R.A. at bay, I don’t want to fall back into a place of complacency and forget how bad it can get. I don’t want to ever take a pain-free life for granted.

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