Something you may not know

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Me before a workout.

I have a confession to make. Sounds very serious, I know, but really, it's not. It's just that I kind of want to get it off my chest. I have rheumatoid arthritis.

My joints have always bugged me to some extent throughout my life, but the pain finally got bad enough and frequent enough about a year ago that I decided to find out what was wrong with me. I got a full physical and got every blood test I could think of. I checked my hormones (because I've always wondered if they were out of whack), my thyroid, my blood composition, everything. Most things came back fine, but one number was way out of whack, which meant I most likely had an autoimmune disease. I got more blood tests and was then referred to a specialist.

While waiting for that appointment, I imagined myself having the worst possible scenario and googled way too many autoimmune diseases than was good for me. I did lots more blood tests and an ultrasound on my hands, and after another month or so, was finally told it was rheumatoid arthritis. Not every number confirmed it (some tests came back negative), but the process of diagnosing an autoimmune disorder is actually pretty complicated and nothing is cut and dry yes or no. It's more a process of elimination and looking at the big picture, all the information together. Since my symptoms and some blood work indicated it, it basically meant I had it, along with tendinitis, which is the stretching out of the tendons connected to the joints. I was relieved it wasn't anything worse, but I also was really wary of taking medication for it. I chose to wait and see, because arthritis can actually get better and sometimes doesn't really progress throughout your whole life.

I was sad for a long time after being diagnosed, and wondered why I had one health issue after another to deal with, and at such a young age. I was thankful it wasn't anything worse and felt guilty when I felt sorry for myself, but I just wanted to get to an easier time in my life so badly. It just seemed that would never happen. Pain in my joints while doing the simplest things reminded me countless times per day that I had something wrong with me, and the nagging fear would creep it's way up again. I feared that since I was still so young and that I had so many years for the disease to progress, it could get really bad and I wouldn't be able to enjoy many activities in life that I wanted to.

I decided that I'd try the medicine instead of living in pain and fear every day. My doctor said he saw inflammation all throughout my hands (where he did the ultrasound) but didn't see any damage yet. The dangerous thing is letting the disease cause damage, because it's irreversible. He warned me that many people come in way too late, when their hands are already disfigured or their back is already hunched, and that I came in in time. So that was a good thing. I just wanted to try living without pain and without that fear in the back of my mind that damage was occurring and I wasn't doing anything about it. I also wanted to stop feeling sorry for myself.

Well, you don't see any effects of that particular medicine for at least three or four months, and right before that time was up, I suspected I may be pregnant. I went with my gut and stopped taking the medication. We then decided (after years of going back and forth, back and forth) that we really did want another baby, no matter what issues we were going through. I have been medication-free since then.

The first three or so months of pregnancy were crappy in other ways, but I found that my joint pain was almost gone. It was so liberating and energizing. It didn't last, however, and right now, it's back with a vengeance.

All that to say, it's been really hard for me to stay in shape and find an activity or workout that doesn't hurt my knees, my ankles, my hips, my elbows, or my wrists. I also have back and pelvis issues and there are certain things I can't do because of that. And throw in being pregnant on top of that! :) I was actually doing Insanity when I first went to the doctor, which caused my knees to hurt so badly I couldn't get back up from a crouching position. I had to stop the 9-week program two weeks early because it was so intense and so hard on my joints. I got so burned out running to the gym and figuring out what to do with the kids while there just to get on the elliptical (a low-impact exercise) that I quit my gym membership last fall. It just wasn't cutting it for me anymore. I was too nauseous to work out for the first three months of my pregnancy, but now that I feel better, I know I need to do something to keep my weight in check.

I got the Tracy Anderson DVDs and have been doing her method for about a month now, and it isn't the perfect answer for me and my joints, but it's bearable. I do 30 minutes instead of 60 and only 3-4 times per week instead of 6. And I'm definitely not on the eating plan! It's been fun to find something new and something that doesn't require me to put all my body weight on my wrists to get any results, because it just felt like swimming was becoming my only option for getting my heart rate up. Her method is different in that she works the small muscle groups instead of the large ones to tone your body, which seems like a perfect fit for me. I usually bulk up so quickly it's not even funny! My jeans got tighter instead of looser with Insanity because my muscles were huuuge (though they were still covered by fat--bummer). I hope to stick with this workout and see what results I get. I just need to get some knee wraps to help my knees out a bit because I definitely can't do the cardio DVD every day. After two days back to back, my knees aren't having it.

I know that in my weakness God is strong, and with him I can do all things. I plan on getting back on medication after I'm done breastfeeding, and hopefully that will work. I try not to think of all the activities I may have to skip out on in the future, but for now, I'm going to do as many as I can. Live life to the fullest and give the rest to God. If you have any suggestions for workouts, I would love to hear them. I know it's been a very wordy post, but I'm glad I got it out. Thanks for the therapy session.



Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to hear about your diagnosis!! In the midst of pain you have so much to be thankful for. You have a beautiful family and have such creativity! What a blessing to be able to stay home; and of course you have one big blessing on the way. :) said...

I'm sorry to hear about your arthritis. It was inspiring to read how motivated and dedicated you are! My legs bulk up quick when I do weights, but not so much with cardio, so I try doing a mix of both.

I once talked to a gal who got fit just by walking for a few miles everyday. I was inspired because I can always come up with excuses as to why I don't want to go to the gym:)

I'll be praying for you and your joint pain, and also your little gal on the way.


Tanya said...

Thank you guys for the encouraging words. Our trials make us stronger, I know that much.

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