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This is my life now, and I'm going to make the most of it

I have all the dates.  I used to keep a workout journal, and I was training for a half marathon, and up to running 19 km back in November 2011.  I felt a huge cramp in my right buttock while running, but it was a beautiful day, I felt good otherwise and continued.  The run is part road and part trail...on my own, good meditative time, my favourite run.  I was fine the next day other than a pulling feeling on my right buttock.  Went to work as usual - worked as a community dental hygienist, and needed to be able to do a lot of bending over, twisting, lifting, kneeling and other non-ergonomic positioning. 

The next day, I 'tried' to run a minor 5 km, and couldn't as my right buttock was so cramped, I couldn't straighten my right leg fully.  That continued for a few weeks, where I would be limping so badly and painfully I would be bathed in sweat.  I finally went to my physio who told me it was sciatica, and to take time off work, lay on the floor with my feet up on a chair and do nothing until my sciatica settled down.  I took all my sick days, overtime and holidays until January 2012.  I was fine laying down, but as soon as I'd stand, the pain and cramping, numbness would return.  I finally, after gaining a bunch of comfort food weight, and lost muscle mass as well as lost cardio ability, went to my MD.  She sent me for an MRI, which showed I had spondylolisthesis of L4/L5.  I had fusion surgery May 29/ 2012.

I also found out I had degenerative disc disease in my cervical and lumbar regions. No biggy, they didn't bother me at all.  That was January of 2013. I had started running again, and was slowly looking forward to getting back into shape and thinking about 10 kms, half marathons. I noticed the DIP joints of fingers on both hands and the large joint at the base of my left big toe were beginning to bother me and deform, painfully, rapidly. My wonderful MD sent me to a wonderful Rheumatologist, who diagnosed me with inflammatory osteoarthritis, and put me on NSAIDs and hydroxychloroquine sulfate.  I noticed a huge surge of energy on the meds.  I was running 6 min. kms, which to most people means nothing, but was amazing to me, as I am a plodder, not a speeder.  Anyway, to cut a long story short, the NSAIDs were making me hypo manic and had to come off them before going into full-blown psychosis – a little known, but documented side effect of NSAIDs.  Tried four different ones with the same result, so no pain meds.  Hydroxychloroquine sulfate worked well. My fingers, thumb, toe were less painful.  But more DIP joints were rapidly being affected.

I couldn't find anything about inflammatory osteo online other than erosive osteo, so asked my Rheumatologist.  X-rays confirmed yes, but no change in meds.  Still osteoarthritis.  My toenails started falling off, whole toenails with out reason.  I hadn't thought about toenails as I was a runner, and toenails are often damaged if you do long distance running.  My MD was concerned and sent me to a dermatologist, who pronounced they were psoriatic.  What?  As it turns out, the eczema I thought I'd had in the past many years was inverse psoriasis, and I had been experiencing odd things like pain across my shoulders, elbows, sides of my hands, wrists, swollen whole digits - fingers and toes. Problems with the bottom of my feet - swelling, painful 'pulling' feeling - all very painful, but annoying and not given much credence by me.  Now am on methotrexate and hydroxychloroquine sulfate, and finally seeing some benefits to offset the 'fun' of these meds. I am one of the very lucky people.  I was diagnosed relatively quickly, put on meds relatively quickly, they're working, and I'm older (60).  I still have dreams of running again.  I haven't been able to because I've been so fatigued by the disease.  The meds?  I don't know.  But it is getting better.

 I'm in less pain, and more mobile. When I hear others that are suffering saying that arthritis is an invisible disease, I understand.  People may see some 'deformities', but not see the fatigue, painful episodes, fevers, chills, just general unwellness you might be experiencing, and view you as a hypochondriac or similar. I've had to stop so many things I used to enjoy, but do see that there might be a light in the future.  With the current trajectory, I hope to start running and hiking again - not at the level I was a few years ago, but this is my life now, and I'm going to make the most of it.  I've had to give up work, but I volunteer, and in some ways that's better.

Trying to stay positive is difficult, and there are so many blogs online that are so horribly depressing.  Arthritis sufferers are dealing with so much loss, major changes in everyday's difficult for someone who doesn't have it to really understand.  I heard the Chinese or mandarin sign for 'change', means dangerous opportunity, so I keep that in mind whenever what might seem like a setback comes my way.

Good luck to you all, and thank you for this opportunity.

Submitted by a 60 female outside of the UK.

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