The Arthritis Diaries of Chubby McSideboob

When I started blogging I was careful not to write purely about a specific niche…I like making people that a niche? laughter?

However it would appear that a ‘topic’ has found me, Im not going to call it a niche, because I’m sick of hearing the word.  Im yet to find another sufferer of Rheumatoid Arthritis who is in their mid to late thirties.. (ok late thirties) ….and male. That said, Im sure there are loads of them and I haven’t been actively looking for any.

Im certain there are Facebook groups or maybe an app  where people find other RA victims and talk about their illness, photographing their deformed joints, so that everyone can see how they are morphing into Frankenstein’s monster, but that’s not really me.

So instead I’ve decided to write a bit of a diary about my experiences…when there is something  to write about…I’ll try not to bore you with mundane everyday happenings that make me sound like Dot Cotton or that poor bariatric lady from ‘GPs behind closed doors” who rocks up every week with a different ailment….

The reason  I have decided to start writing about this, is today is a fairly big step into the world of Rheumatoid Arthritis.. the day I start taking Methotrexate.

The story up till now

I started to feel unwell about 3 weeks before Christmas, with tiredness really taking over my body, and waking up with achy and stiff joints, especially in my hands and feet. As the days passed, this became progressively worse and I really noticed the struggle when cooking Christmas Dinner, and the difficulty that came with lifting the Turkey into the oven  ..which nearly ended up being served in the cat’s bowl when my knees and wrists decided they weren’t playing.

I went to the doctor’s for the 1st time, the day after Boxing Day, this was the 1st time I had visited a Doctor in about 7  years and after a careful examination …(even the cough test…with her cold hands cupped around my manhood), the lovely lady GP referred me to a Rheumatologist.

I decided to take an open referral and make the most of my Private Healthcare…(Im glad I did, as I would probably still be waiting for an appointment now.)  When I got home I called the health company and managed to get a referral to see a Rheumatologist  at a small Private Hospital within the grounds of Mount Vernon the next evening.

To cut a long story short, after number of blood tests and a couple of  consultations, I was diagnosed as having Rheumatoid Arthritis and the doctor started me on an 8 week course of Steroids and Hydroxychloroquine , a disease modifying drug.

In basic terms, Rheumatoid arthritis is an ‘auto immune disease’ whereby your immune system is over-active and starts to attack the fluid in your joints, confusing them with a foreign body. Many people associate the disease with old people, or severe coldness, however the disease is actually genetic, and old people often get osteoarthritis which is when joints crumble due to old age.

The disease -modifying drugs (DMARDS) can take up to 12 weeks to start taking effect, so I am currently in the stage where I am waiting for something to happen, with a nice batch of steroids to take in the meantime to reduce the swelling and stiffness.

This week.

I went back for my 4 weekly check up this week and the the doctor told me that the Rheumatoid Factor in my blood had risen.  The Private Doctor asked me to come and see him the next day in his ‘NHS capacity’ at Watford General. How ironic…the Doctor who is seeing me privately has referred me back to the NHS to see him…(something to do with the insurance not covering long-term care).  So I went back the next day to see the same Doctor so that I could get an NHS prescription for Methotrexate.

I’ve never been a big fan of taking any sort of medication…. I have to be practically screaming in pain before I’ll take a paracetamol. When the Doctor said the words “methotrexate’ everything became a little bit more ‘real’.

Methotrexate is a long term drug that you take weekly. Despite being the most popular and effective treatment for RA, has a large number of side effects, including liver and lung damage, hair loss, frequent nausea and a lowering of the immune system.  “Great”, I thought

Before being given the prescription, I had to have a chest x-ray and liver function tests and I will now need to have a blood test every two weeks to monitor my liver. I also have to carry a ‘methotrexate passport’ around with me and take folic acid once a week (the day after).

The biggest concern I have with the medication is, I do like a glass of wine every now and then, however drinking alcohol with this medication, poses a much higher risk of liver damage and the instructions state..I must stay well within the recommended weekly units of alcohol.

Can I have all these units in one day?….What happens when I want to have a good drink? Do I need to give up alcohol altogether… I have so many ‘important questions.

To make matters worse…when I collected my prescription, the nosey old Doris at the pharmacy (you know the ones that think they are medically trained…but are just cashiers with an NVQ in Tixylix), said to me;

” Are you sure this is the right medication? You do know this is a cancer drug?”

Err yes thank you Doris…I have been to a doctor, I didn’t just get hold of a prescription form and decide I would prescribe myself a drug that will mean I can’t drink and I may lose my hair!

The doctor also suggested losing a bit of weight. This I already knew, but it still hurts when you hear it from someone else. With giving up smoking, I have put on a few pounds and upon last inspection, I am getting ‘side-fat’….god help me.

So today I got up extra-early and ingested my new tablets…stepping into the unknown, and Im off to buy myself a fit-bit in the vain attempt to get more active. Dieting is a whole other  post…and one that I’ll put off for as long as possible.

Do you or  anyone you know, suffer with Rheumatoid Arthritis and taking Methotrexate? How has it affected you? Would love to hear from you.

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So I Have Arthritis…And There’s Me Thinking It Was Mincer’s Hip

so-i-ahev-arthritis-and-theres-me-thinking-it-was-mincers-hipIm not one for pain ordinarily, so when I started getting some in my left leg, I just put it down to the fact that I had been allocated a company car that wasn’t automatic…you know…first world problems.

At Christmas this pain just grew and grew and I became stiffer and stiffer (my joints that is), culminating in a point where I had to drag myself to chav central (the Doctor’s surgery) the day after Boxing day to get some stronger pain-killers.

By now the pain and swelling had hit every joint in my body, my fingers were like cumberland sausages, I was walking like Quasimodo and the moans and groans I was subjecting everyone to, were as annoying as two fat slags at a pie bake-off.

Nevertheless, I thought, maybe I’m a bit run down. I spend a lot of time at work and It would be my luck to fall ill during the Christmas holidays (much like when there is a Snow day on your scheduled day off!). I had some blood tests and was sent on my merry (not merry) way with some anti-inflammatories and painkillers.

A week later when I got the blood test results and feeling no better (in fact a lot worse) I returned to the very lovely lady Doctor who referred me to see a Rheumatologist.

Knowing how the NHS runs in the UK, I decided to make use of my Private Healthcare and instead of waiting 2 months to see a specialist, I was seen the very next day in a lovely little hospital with no screaming kids and a ‘coffee menu’…if you don’t mind.

I was prodded and poked and sent for another round of blood tests, (I’ve now had more pricks than Kerplunk), and it turns out that I have arthritis, that is more than likely Rheumatoid.

Evidently Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disease where your white cells start attacking the fluid in your joints, mistaking them for foreign objects- a life-long disease that affects everyone differently. I always associated arthritis with old people…but seemingly it’s a genetic disease that can happen at anytime (including birth).

Due to the Doctor being unable to diagnose Rheumatoid Arthritis until I have had symptoms for 8 weeks (protocol), I need to return in a couple of weeks to discover the inevitable. In fact, I have already been referred to receive ‘Disease Modifying Therapy’, and he has indicated pretty strongly that this is what he believes it is.

So I am left at a point in my life where I am faced with a little uncertainty. This is not a feeling I am used to, there are lots of questions in my mind. What next? Will the pain go away? Will I be entitled to a divvy parking badge?

With the 8 weeks of steroids I have been prescribed, I have been told to try swimming and …yoga….(FML).

So I’m writing this post in contrast to my usual style and content.  I would like to pay thanks to my husband and family, who have been really looking after me over the last few weeks. I am never ill, and albeit in chronic pain, the upside is..I have been able to lap up a bit of sympathy. I have been  delivered muffins, I’ve been cooked for….been given a nutri-bullet (thanks mum and dad) and everyone has just been genuinely lovely to me whilst I relax and dose myself up.

Thats All.