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Posts Tagged ‘Friends and Family’

This weekend has been wonderful for lifting the spirits. Yesterday, I went for a short drive to town, which happens to be on the coast. I only stayed in the car, while the boyfriend nipped in and out of shops on the retail parks, but it was nice to get some fresh air and see the world flying by, instead of being stuck inside. Saturday was also both my Mum’s and my Niece’s birthdays and I was looking forward to spending some time with them today; making plans for the afternoon ahead, wrapping presents, buying balloons and special treats.

My brother brought my niece to visit this afternoon and stayed for Sunday dinner. They don’t live locally and I don’t see as much of them as I’d like to, so this was even more of a treat.  It was her first birthday and even I can’t believe how fast that first year has flown, she’s turning into a little individual and it’s lovely to see.  She opened her presents, had a play with her new toys and the helium balloon we’d bought her, then we all took turns in having a cuddle with the little wriggler; she will be walking soon and already speedy in getting about! After dinner, we all drove to my Mum’s to wish her Happy Birthday with some cuddles from her grandaughter. I hadn’t seen my mum since being discharged from the hospital two weeks ago and I  admit I was in need of some cuddles too hehe (You’re never too old!).

It was a struggle getting to/from the car on the crutches but once I was inside I at least had a ‘proper’ chair to sit on – I’ve mentioned the carers that visit me at home keep complaining about our sofa being too low and wanting me to purchase a special armchair… well I had a brainwave last night.  My nan had one such chair and when she passed away, four years ago, we couldn’t bear to part with it and it has sat in my sister’s bedroom ever since. It is absolutely perfect for me right now, so we have brought it home for me to sit in during the day. My nan was always a huge support to me when she was alive, I talked to her a lot about my illness and she would try anything she could to bring me relief – from adding me to the prayer lists at Church and bringing me Holy water from Lourdes, to looking into alternative therapies, treatments or foods and buying me useful gadgets to take the pressure off my joints. I think she would be really pleased to think that something of hers is helping me now; and sitting here I feel like she is with me somehow.

So a lovely weekend in all, spent with most of my favourite people. It’s amazing how these times can have such a healing effect on the body and the soul, even considering how much it has taken out of me physically (and believe me, I am exhausted now!)

I hope I don’t suffer for it too much tomorrow, but even so it will have been worth it 🙂

L

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I seem to keep following up every positive post with a negative one, but that is just how things are at the moment – I am definitely on the ‘Still’s Rollercoaster’ and wanting to get off.

Last night was the hardest night we have had in a while. As well as the obvious hip pain, I had been seizing up more and more as the day went on; my elbows, shoulders, neck and collarbone were pounding and I could barely move my upperbody and then when the time came round to move me from our upstairs Snug to the Bedroom, I discovered that both my knees were so swollen that they wouldn’t bend an inch. Trying to get me up from the sofa when I was unable to bend or weightbear with either my upper or lower body proved extremely difficult and there were a lot of tears from me and looks of sheer panic from my boyfriend. Even once we managed to get me on my feet and changed, we had the same problem trying to get me into bed. I couldn’t move my limbs myself, couldn’t shuffle or roll or do anything you take for granted getting into bed; I really thought I was going to have to sleep back on the sofa.

So swollen and full of fluid it won't bend - you can see the difference to my skinny legs.

Somehow we managed to get me in the bed, propped up slightly on my back and with a pillow beneath my locked knees, which wouldn’t fully straighten either. I’ve been this way with my knees before (many-a-time) but can usually compensate with my arms; the fact that I felt every single joint in my body was giving up on me and swelling with fluid despite all the cortisone injections, is what made it so tough. I was in bed but I was now helpless, unable to move an inch without extreme pain, or to even shift the duvet, which suddenly felt like a ton weight. This is a scary feeling; I’ve felt it before but this is one of the worst times yet. My boyfriend was on call and would have to wake me to administer Oramorph each hour until I found some relief from the deep throbbing pain that had my body in a vice… but eventually, I did manage to drift off to sleep.

The point I wanted to make though, is how much this is all affecting my boyfriend too.  I am so lucky to have him; he’d do anything for me and that’s part of the problem – because he still sees me suffering, he feels like he isn’t doing enough to take it away.  He’s starting to look exhausted himself; the weekend away helped but now we’re back in the routine of him caring for me at home and working full-time it is taking its toll again.  Plus, he can never really leave it behind when he does go to work. He says I’m on his mind all day (not in the usual way unfortunately), he can’t concentrate properly and is making silly mistakes because he is so distracted and tired. He came home complaining of sore ribs last night and only remembered after a few hours of being home that he’d actually had a bit of a fall, which explained the pain. I mean, how do you forget something like that?

I worry that he might see me in a different light all of a sudden, in fact, every time I need help dressing or getting into bed, or off the toilet or when I move like the tinman; that he’ll be put off by the rashes, the Pred cheeks and swollen, deformed joints I keep presenting him with. We’ve been going through this flare at some level for two years now which has been bad enough, but this is the worst he’s ever seen me and I know he is shocked. But he is never anything but loving and supportive, telling me that we will get through this together. I know how much it must scare him though and it breaks my heart. I want to be able to reassure him that everything will work out and I do try. At least I’m lucky enough to be able to look back on previous flares and be reassured that thing did get better; for him, this must seem neverending and unfathomable. It’s almost as if I now want to get better for him more than anything else, to give him a slice of normality again and show that this isn’t how our relationship is going to be forever. I want to make him feel better.

Because it’s so so hard for him to watch me going through this… and it’s hard for me to know that too, but how do I protect him from it? I hope, that when we can put all this behind us to some extent, our relationship will be stronger for it, but for now all I can think is….

Cruel disease.

L

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I thought that I’d concentrate on an realtime update, while backdating is taking so much longer than I expected. Things have reached a sort of equilibrium on a daily basis, between struggling with pain, mobility and capability in the mornings and managing things better in the afternoons. Someone from Social Services phoned on Friday to say that I was on top of the list for a home assessment that will decide whether I need a Care Package for a short time at home.  Personally, I feel that I only need some help in the mornings as I am too sore to do anything before my boyfriend leaves for work. We have our routine that works for a lot of things, but nothing in place to help me shower or dress. Dressing I can leave until the pain and stiffness eases enough to allow me to try, although this was late afternoon on some days last week.

Showering is probably the biggest problem. We have tried it once and am in no hurry to try again; there were too many problems and tears and it was simply not safe. As helpful as my boyfriend is, he isn’t trained to shower someone who can’t stand without support and such restriction raises more issues than you would imagine. Getting into the shower, over that little step, when you depend on a frame is hard enough itself; but, once you are in, there is nothing but wet walls for support and no way to move when you can’t bear you weight through something. I was terrified of slipping and falling. So, for now I am having thorough sponge washes twice a day and hope that someone will come to our aid with something to enable me to shower.

In the meantime, they did send me round a toilet frame that same afternoon, which has made ahugedifference to me. It was so difficult and taking such a long time to negotiate the toilet, that I was worried I might have an accident at some point. Worry no more! 🙂

On a more positive note, it was Valentine’s Day recently and we had booked a weekend hotel break as we do every year. We were actually going to cancel it, thinking I was just too poorly to manage, but because it was already paid for the hotel wouldn’t allow us and so we made the decision to give it a try. Fortunately, we had only booked somewhere very close by and purely for the hotel facilities rather than any plans to sightsee, so we figured that I may as well struggle there (in luxury) as at home. I think a few people close to me thought I was slightly mad and pushing myself too much too soon, but we all have to make our own decisions and live with them.

We got in touch with the hotel to explain the situation and they were very accommodating, upgrading us to a Disabled Access room that was on the ground floor and very close to the restaurant, bar and spa. I was able to use my zimmer in the bedroom and only had a short distance to manage on crutches, to get to meals. Once that initial morning struggle to get me dressed was out of the way, we would sit at breakfast for at least a couple of hours just taking things very slowly and waiting for my pain relief to kick in. Then eventually we would move across to the bar/lounge area and set up in a cosy corner there for the afternoon.  I was happy reading and making some notes for projects I have in mind, while my boyfriend made use of the free Wifi we had been offered to make our stay more enjoyable. Add to that being waited on with lovely food, cakes, tea and hot chocolate… you can probably see why I didn’t want to come home!

So, over all we had a wonderful weekend and I’m so glad that we took the chance, instead of playing it safe. Just to have a change of scenery, to have a reason to wear nice clothes and do my makeup, has given my spirits such a boost that I feel more able to deal with the issues that the Still’s Disease keeps throwing at me; and they do keep coming. Only yesterday, while away, I was presented with a new problem – both of my knees have swollen up, meaning it is now extremely difficult to stand from sitting as I can barely bend from my hips or my knees. My thoughts are that the Tocilizumab infusions aren’t working but we have to persevere a while longer as there are so few options left treatment-wise; we don’t want to write them off too soon.

Roll on March 2nd though.

L

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After two weeks in hospital, and one of my scariest flare ups, I finally came home today. It was a slightly confusing turn of events, as on Thursday they were talking about me going to a mobility rehabilitation centre for a time and then suddenly the arrangements were being made for me to go home, even though everyone seemed to have different ideas about whether I was ready for this. After a lot of discussion, I made the decision that I would rather be at home to continue my recovery as I didn’t really see what more could be done for me as an inpatient, now my pain was controlled and I’d had all the relevent procedures. I’m lucky to have good support and facilities at home, plus they have arranged for me to have home physio and an assessment by the Occupational therapists to see if there is anything more I would benefit from.

My elbow had been the main factor holding me back once my hips were sorted, as it became swollen, restricted and very painful – especially when needing to bear weight through it to use the walker/crutches. My Rheumy came to examine it and found more inflammation and fluid around the joint, so I had this injected with cortisone too, which should settle it down and give me more movement and use of that left arm. I tried the stairs with crutches for the first time and although it was hard going, I think I can manage doing it once a day until I’m strong enough to try more. One important factor that has been reinstilled with me during my hospital stay is just how important it is to keep moving, even through pain and inflammation, and this is something I will be posting about once I catch up on everything.

The past two weeks have been a real eye opener for me in many different ways, so I have lots to post about. The wordpress format seems to have changed while I was away, but I’m hoping that once I figure it out I will be able to backdate posts relating to my stay, while updating with current issues as before. The reason I feel the need to backdate is that this blog also forms a record of my disease activity, which is useful for myself (and hopefully others) to look back on. I was making notes on paper during my stay, so hopefully will be able to keep it accurate.

It feels really good to be home and I’m confident that it will speed up my recovery; little things like needing to use steps to visit my little furbaby Jasper will encourage me to do so daily and even trips to the toilet provide more exercise than having a toilet in my room. I just have to remember to go as soon as I need to as it takes me about 15 minutes to get there with my walker and I’ve had a few close calls already!

Finally, thank you to everybody who visited, sent cards and messages of support to me while I was away. It makes all the difference in the world to dealing with all this and I count myself very lucky to have you all.

Take care all,

L

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{Backdated Post}

Not much to report for today. I had another session of Physiotherapy with the walker this morning, with a different Physio, who discovered that I had a physical reason for not being able to lift my foot from the floor. The swelling and inflammation in my hip was causing a slight impingement of the muscle, making it feel like the joint was loose; this should settle down once I have had the procedure to inject cortisone into the joint tomorrow, so nothing to be too concerned about for now. I still feel like I have made some progress with my walking though and was glad that I kept up with the exercises that they left me yesterday. I have been making a mental note to do a couple each hour or so and soon noticed a difference in how my knees/ankles were moving. I might not be able to lift that foot from the floor yet, but I was at least taking steps in a more natural way than before and following through with a good knee bend – baby steps, but all in the right direction.

My Rheumy visited later on in the afternoon and was pleased to see me on my feet, making the most of being able to stand again! He agreed with the Physio, that there was a physical reason for me not being able to lift the foot, and said it should benefit from the procedure tomorrow. I am due to have cortisone injected into both hip joints via ultrasound guidance, nothing too major but because it is such a deep joint it has to be done using local anaesthetic, in a sterile environment and with a lot of preparation. I am a little concerned this time round; when I had something similar last week, I was in so much pain that I probably tolerated more than I would usually, so maybe this time will hurt? I’m not having it done by the radiographer either, but my Rheumy’s Registrar, who doesn’t fill me with a lot of confidence (not that I doubt his competency, I think it is just his manner). I just have to tell myself that the overall benefits will be worth the pain, and remind myself that anything that can prevent that original pain coming through again has to be worthwhile.

I had a number of visitors today, which was lovely; my boyfriend’s mum and grandma came for a couple of hours in the afternoon and then my dad and boyfriend came in the evening. They found a wheelchair and took me for a ride round the (huge) hospital, which doesn’t sound like much but it was great to escape the confines of my room and get a breath of semi-fresh air from passing the front entrance, shame about the smokers! My boyfriend was allowed to stay past visiting hours so that he could help me wash and change for bed, he even shaved my legs for me bless him. Despite having to swallow my pride on numerous occasions during my stay, I was not ready to show off my hairy leggedness during the procedure tomorrow!

I got a bit emotional this evening too; I don’t know if it’s because of the extra morphine but I suddenly felt quite ‘loved up’ and started telling everyone I loved them and how grateful I was for their support. I know I will probably cringe at this tomorrow, since I find it hard to be open with my feelings a lot of the time. Even though they run deep and I want people to know just how much I love and appreciate them, it isn’t always easy to just say so, so maybe I should be thankful to the morphine for giving me the opportunity.

Because, I know I keep saying it, but if it wasn’t for the people I have around me, this would be so much harder; I’m not sure how I would cope.

L

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It’s a couple of days after my second Tocilizumab / RoActemra infusion and I feel exhausted – and I mean that really deep seated exhaustion that makes you feel too tired to even be lying down awake, the heart pounding, lung-crushing, head-spinning, soul-destroying exhaustion that comes with the fatigue element of chronic disease.

I can’t put my mind to anything; I’ve tried reading, watching a film, surfing the net, blogging…! To call it brain fog is an understatement; I literally can’t get my words together in my head and will probably have to redraft this at some point when I’m feeling better. Even reaching over to the bedside table for a pen to make a shopping list feels like a huge effort; in fact, I don’t think I can. So instead I will just lie here and play with my new Blackberry.

I’m pretty sure I felt like this last time too but thought nothing of it as we’d had such a long day. I hope it doesn’t last too long because fatigue is the element I find hardest to manage. I’ve probably said this before, but at least with pain you can get some relief from pain medication – there is nothing that helps fatigue and you have no choice but to let it dictate your day. The main reason I managed so well on Orencia was because it seemed to help the fatigue, if not the joints.

As well as the fatigue I have been feeling a bit queasy, but then I had been feeling that way prior to the infusion too, putting it down to the pain in my hips. I also have terrible skin and I know that happened last time because the red marks it left are only just starting to fade. I’ve never suffered with bad spots (apart from a pred-induced bout once) and now I feel like a spotty adolescent with Mount Vesuvius erupting on my chin. Last time it cleared up after the initial ‘infestation’ and I hope this time is the same. I asked a few pals who are also on Tocilizumab if they had experienced anything similar and they had, but thankfully only at the start of treatment.

I’m supposed to be popping in to my cousin’s little girl’s First Birthday later on this evening, so I need to get some energy from somewhere. Maybe (another) nap will help?

L

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Usually, when I talk of rollercoasters, it’s in relation to the rollercoaster nature of this disease – the ups, downs, twists and turns of Still’s Disease… but today I’m talking about the real thing.

Yesterday, I fought fire with fire and went to Alton Towers.

Okay, so it probably isn’t the best thing to do when you’re flaring, BUT the thing is… I wanted to! I hate missing out on things because of the Still’s and I knew that I was coming to the end of the ‘steroid boost’, meaning the flare is probably going to get worse again from here unless the Tocilizumab is effective.

Plus, it was my friend’s 30th birthday and what better way to celebrate than fearing for your life (Being 30 doesn’t seem so bad after all that). I surprised myself by going on every ride apart from Nemesis; I didn’t think my wonky knee would appreciate the dangling and swinging about. At least on all of the other rides you are strapped in very securely and they are ‘steelies’, so very smooth coasters. My favourite was a ride called Air, a rollercoaster that you ride kind of lying on your front – actually very comfortable! – and which gives you the sensation of flying.

I must admit I am shattered today but it was worth it for all the laughing I did.

L

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