Reactive Arthritis (Reiters Syndrom) - infection in bowels - uninary tract and other organs Rheumatoid Arthritis - A Systemic Disease (Spreads throughout) and Destroys synovial tissue (lining of joints) Sclerodoma - Body produces too much collagen (structure of skin and organs) Affects blood vessels and joints. Ankylosing Spondylitis - Spine Fibromyalgia - muscles and tendons Gout - big toe Infections arthritis (lyme disease) Lupus - destroys health cells and tissues Osteoarthritis - destroys cartidge and bone Polymyalgia Rheumatica - Muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints Sjogren’s Syndrom - causes parts of your body to dry out. Psoriatic Arthritis - Occurs in people with skin disorder psoriasis. Affects joints in fingers and toes. Pleuritis - causes chest pain with deep breathing, shortness of breath and coughing. Pericarditis - Inflammation of tissue surrounding the heart.
If you or someone you love has been inflicted with one of these rheumatic diseases, you know what a pain scale is, although you maybe haven't seen a pain scale like the one below. This is my own special pain scale that I designed to show exactly how I am feeling on the inside when my Doctor asks for a Number.
RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS - AN AUTO IMMUNE DISEASE
It is said that as of 2007, 1.5 Million Adults had been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. I am one of the 1.5 Million, and this is a brief story of my Rheumatoid life. I once was healthy and athletic. I once was talented and energetic. I once thought I had the world by the reins and could accomplish great things. In high school I played every sport my school offered; basketball, volleyball, softball, and track. I loved to be active and I was definitely competitive. I worked hard when I was young too. From the time I was fifteen years old, my summers during my high school years were spent working in a factory. After I graduated, I was able to get a job working in the office of the same factory. I worked 40+ hours a week during the day, and at night I would play in recreation league sports and make extra cash by babysitting or keeping score in the softball and baseball leagues. The summer of 1988 I was married, bought my first house, continued to work, started taking college classes at night, and even started taking classes in Real Estate. In August, 1989, I was excited to learn I was pregnant. I continued to work and take college and real estate classes up until a week before I was to give birth to my son in April, 1990. I completed all required Real Estate classes, and all I had left to do was to take the test. The company I worked for had great insurance, but my husband had a good job, and actually sold insurance, so when my 6 week pregnancy leave was up, I decided not to return to work and stay home and be with my new born son. I was able to keep my insurance for 6 months, but had to pay the monthly premium. The summer of 1990 came and went, and for some reason, I can’t remember why I never ended up taking the test to get my Real Estate license. In October, 1990, I joined a co-ed volleyball league to get exercise and try and lose the baby fat. I practiced and played 1-2 nights a week in this league. Shortly after my 22nd birthday in November of 1990, during volleyball practice one night, my life changed dramatically. I remember trying to “bump the ball”, and a sharp aching pain burst through my elbows. When I went to “set the ball”, my fingers felt like they were all broken. By the time I left practice that night, I was in tears. I remember waking up the following day in severe pain. I could not move. The pain I experienced at the onset of my disease was horrifying. A switch in my body went off, and within a days time, my body decided to start attacking itself from within. It felt as though hundred pound weights were lowering, and slowly ripping my shoulders from their sockets, and invisible hammers were smashing my wrists and fingers. It didn't matter if I moved or remained still, the pain would not subside, and I could think of nothing other than pain. My life changed. My mom brought me to the hospital. Blood tests and x-rays were done. At first they thought I had Lupus, but a visiting rheumatologist diagnosed me with Rheumatoid Arthritis. No known cause. No known cure. My first course of treatment was cortisone shots in my left shoulder, and methotrexate. Cortisone reduced my pain level, but it did not take the pain away. Methotrexate made my stomach cramp terribly. Prednisone tablets gave me terrible headaches. Feldene made me sick. Plaquenil made me feel weak and messed with my eyesight. Nothing would make the pain stop, and my body slowly became a junkyard of substances. I could not return to work. I lost my insurance so I stopped seeing my doctor. I filed for divorce, and I moved away. I lived with my brother for a short time. Found a job as a cocktail waitress, and started taking college classes again. As far as pain management went, I found myself trying pretty much anything my friends and co-workers recommended. Over-the-counter pain pills, vitamins, minerals, fruits, foods, juices, drinks, heatpads, patches, I tried them all. And then there was alcohol and marijuana. I was 24, and I drank aLot. Alcohol made me do some pretty stupid things, but it made the pain go away at least for a little while. I often wonder if I would have drank that much had I not been in so much pain, but that is the past, and there is nothing I can do about that now. Marijuana always seemed to help too. It would not take the pain away entirely, but it certainly took the edge off so I could at least concentrate on something other than pain. I could not find a "normal job" that would work around my pain, so I stuck with bartending and waitressing for the next few years, and finished all but one class for an associate's degree in advertising and marketing. In 1996 I started my own business. I tried to get insurance, but because of Rheumatoid being a pre-existing condition, most would not cover me, and the ones that would, had monthly payments way out of my price range. Once or twice over the years I did pay a couple months premiums just to be seen by a doctor, but never long enough to begin any type of treatment. I went 15 years without medical treatment for my Rheumatoid Arthritis, and during those years, the Rheumatoid destroyed my elbows, hands, wrists, and feet. I was granted Medicaid for a few short months, and during that time, I was seen by the same Rheumatologist who had diagnosed me so many years earlier. He started me on the same treatment as before; cortisone shots and prednisone pills. I would not try methotrexate again, but did attempt the prednisone. Within that time, a new RA treatment came into existence: Remicade infusions. I had two infusions and was scheduled for my third when I lost my medicaid coverage. The withdrawal of this treatment abruptly stopping made my body a living nightmare. I truly thought I was going to die, but I also knew that going to the hospital would financially destroy me and my family. I remained closed off from the world for weeks, and by God's grace, I survived. In 2005, I made the devastating decision to apply for disability. I was 36 years old, and if I wanted to survive, I needed medical assistance. I filled out all the proper paperwork, and applied on my own. I was denied. I filled out the proper forms and appealed their decision, and a few months later received a letter of approval, with mention of another letter I would receive stating the date I would go before a disability board. I waited months to hear when I could be scheduled to go in front of a board for review and final decision. Months went by without any reply, so I made an appointment with a disability attorney. He took my case, and within 2 months, my appointment to appear before a board was set. In February, 2008, the board acknowledged my disability due to Rheumatoid Arthritis, and I was granted Medicare Insurance. March, 2008, my rheumatoid life finally changed for the better. I made an appointment with a new rheumatologist, who without hesitation, started me on a new biologic drug called Humira. I have been taking Humira for 8 years now, and it has drastically changed my life for the better. My views and outlook on life were altered many years ago when I was invaded by rheumatoid, but living with this disease has made me the woman I am today, and I am grateful for every day I am alive.