Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The beginning

Like so many others, I want to document pretty much from the beginning my Rheumatoid Arthritis story. I know there are millions of us, but until I was told I may have it, I really didn't know anything about it, I didn't really know anyone who had it, so I thought I would add to the already many personal stories, mainly to get the word out and raise the awareness.

In retrospect, the beginning was at the start of this year, I think it was in February when I woke up in the middle of the night with such extreme pain in my left shoulder and right wrist that I had tears in my eyes, and I have a pretty high pain threshold, so my husband was so shocked that he took me to the emergency room. I had been training for months for a triathlon, so I thought it was caused by having gone swimming and then pulling something pushing myself onto the the deck of the pool when getting out. The ER doctor gave me some pain killers, that really didn't do much, took X-rays that didn't show anything, and concluded that I had carpal tunnel in m wrist!!

Later that morning I went to see my family doctor who has been taking care of us for years, and he gave me a cortisone shot into the shoulder and concluded that the ER doctor was totally wrong about the carpal tunnel diagnosis. We agreed this was most likely a training injury, so he recommended the usual, ice and ibuprofen and rest for few days. Needless to say, the cortisone really helped me overall, and in a few days I resumed my training. My triathlon was in March, so I didn't want to waste any time with my training. I was doing really well, running up to 4 - 5 miles 3-4 times a week, biking, swimming. Long work outs on weekends that involved 9 mile bike rides together with either 2 mile runs or 1,000 meter swims. As the 15th of March approached (day of the Pasadena Triathlon), I was starting to have a bit of pain in my right shoulder, but took some more ibuprofen and figured once I completed the Tri, I would then relax and slow down and let things heal.

I completed the Triathlon, which was my first ever, and a goal I set for myself for my 50th birthday which was in June. It was a 5K run, 15K bike, and 150 M swim. I made it in 1 hour 31 minutes!

Shortly after, I started having pains in my fingers and wrists and in my right foot/toe joint. I went to my favorite Orthopedist and we agreed that this was probably caused by all the training, and the hands hurt from gripping the bike handle bars and changing gears during the bike part of the triathlon, as I really pushed myself very hard! She sent me to Physical Therapy and suggested more ibuprofen. She also took x-rays and MRI of my foot, but all it showed was some inflammation. So I went. Allie, my physical therapist had me use the paraffin wax treatment and worked on my hands and foot. But I was not getting better, and actually I started to have pain in my knees, and then my right shoulder got much worse, and then my left ankle... and so I returned to my Orthopedist and she got concerned and decided to have me get blood tests. Of course when I heard that I freaked a bit. She (yes, my orthopedist is this amazing Egyptian woman!) mentioned "Rheumatoid Arthritis" as one of the possibilities. I immediately went online to better understand what this was, and freaked even more! I mean, I was planning to train for the next Triathlon! I needed to get a new job (I was laid off in February 09)! I don't get sick! My husband and I have been taking Tango lessons that I want to keep up with! I don't sit still! I was going to be this 50-year old cougar in perfect shape, defying the age number, and challenging all these age conventions together with my 50-year old sister-in-law (who by the way ran her first marathon on her 50th birthday in May)! I eat healthy, I take care of myself, I work hard! I am not supposed to get something like this! And I came to a complete stop! I could not even walk my dog!

Well, when I went in to get the blood test results, the bad news was right there on the report. The orthopedist got on the phone and called her rheumatologist friend to see me that week. She hugged me and we both had tears in our eyes! She knew I was dismayed by this. I went to the rheumatologist that Friday, and we discussed all the options, but first she ordered more blood work and X-rays in order to narrow down her diagnosis, since she thought another possibility may be lupus (even worse!).

So, in the meantime, she gave me steroids to bring down the inflamation, which has been great! I finally have relief from the pain in my hands and and knees. I am continuing with physical therapy for now, as my shoulder and ankle are still hurting.

Thursday of this week (8/13) is the day I go back for my complete diagnosis an review of the lab work and x-rays from the rheumatologist and a plan for what's next.

So this brings me up to date, and I will continue from here on where this journey takes me...


  1. Welcome!

    Thanks for sharing your story. It's always great to hear about others' experiences with RA. I'm looking forward to reading more!

  2. I am so sorry about your diagnosis but it seems you are handling it so well! I have had RA since age 24, 16 years now; I hope you will join us for National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week as we have guest bloggers, awareness goodies and our 5 day virtual conference online with 20 speakers - see invisibleillness.com for details. God bless, Lisa

  3. Magda, I am also a 50+ fit female who was diagnosed with RA about 2 years ago -- almost 7 months after symptoms had surfaced. You can still live a very full, rich active life. I would urge you to check out some alternative therapy -- not just the standard medical treatments. Read about a great option at http://www.roadback.org. Good luck to you.

  4. I enjoyed reading your story. You can still do triathlons if you put your mind to it and protect your joints- I was diagnosed 3 years ago at age 26 and my awesome rheumatologist worked with me on my goal of running again. Looking forward to reading more!