|Hope is the thing with feathers |
That perches in the soul...
What we wouldn't do for a magic bullet, the newest pill or folk remedy to cure the aches, pains, and stress brought on by a disease we didn't choose for ourselves, and wouldn't wish on our worst enemies.
Who hasn't had some well-intentioned individual share Granny's recipe for Gin-Soaked Golden Raisins, (Oprah's buddy, Dr. Oz swears they cut the inflammation and pain) peeled raw potato juice, or cod-liver oil and oranges? "My aunt's friend's bruncle had RA, and he drank a gallon of cod-liver oil before bed each night for a year, and now he's cured!"
It's believed we're 1.3 million strong in the United States alone, and RA'ers make up roughly 1% of the world's population. There may be as many folk remedies out there for as many warriors in our ranks, perhaps more.
Even if our numbers were low, we'd still need Emily Dickinson's little feathered friend to roost. We must hope. We need to believe something will rip away the pain, the fatigue, and the fear.
In the initial stages of coping, your magic bullet may not lie in primitive cures like magnets and pickle juice. It could be placing your trust in everything that lies around the next corner; your first visit to the rheumatologist, a schedule of icing and heat therapy, more sleep, that initial steroid burst, changing your diet, joining a gym (and discovering you are unable to walk up the stairs to the training area), or adding new medications. In time, that corner can become a series of long sharp edges until you are a rat trapped in a maze, searching fruitlessly for an exit out of your nightmare.
Watch me as I lose my dignity, agility, beauty, and peace of mind at the ripe age of 32! When I was first diagnosed, I remember thinking that no life was worth the magnitude of suffering I rose to meet each day. My supply of hope wasn't just diminished, it was gone. Little bird flew away home to a cage that wasn't crooked, bent, broken.
If RA folk remedies worked, none of us would be sick, and this blog wouldn't exist. I'd have never gone through my grieving process, swallowed pills I never dreamed I'd have to take, I'd have never got wrapped up in a friendship that didn't have any merit.
It's never a good time to have RA (don't let anyone ever say that to you), and it would be terrific if we had a cure, but we don't.
If you find yourself stumbling around in a maze of quick fixes, you need to stop.
Take a deep breath, and assess where you are, what you have done.
Then focus on what you can do to help yourself.
- Are you still in denial?
- Are you stuck in the comparison game?
- Are you clinging to those blank bullets shot off by snake oil salesmen looking to make a buck?
- Have you made an appointment with a rheumatologist yet?
Getting in with a good doctor is key to finding something that will help slow the progression of your RA and help ease the pain. Avoiding the doc, denying sickness, not taking your meds, and shopping in Great Aunt Edna's attic for miracle cures are not going to solve this problem.
Once you meet with your rheumatologist, you two can together best determine some things to try, in addition to medication, that might help alleviate your symptoms (not the disease). If you can move, you might join a gym. I know a fellow RA'er who swears by yoga, whereas I cannot support my body weight on my weak wrists. Swimming is better for me, when I can manage it. Some folks use meditation to cut through the pain. Others can't sit still. Eating a balanced diet may help cut down on excess weight hurting your joints, and should improve your overall health, but it won't fix your arthritis. Only you and your doctor should work together to determine the best course of action.
If you find your birdhouse sadly empty, you may consider seeing a therapist. Rheumatoid arthritis is a serious illness, and you need all the strength you can muster to face it head on. You will fall into a natural cycle of pain followed by freedom, forgetting and remembering, despair and hope. These cycles may be unpredictable to begin with, and should even out with time. Even the most fierce warriors have good days followed by the bad.
This is also the part where you let go. I don't mean to give up on yourself, to not be your own advocate, but simply to let go of false hope. It's natural to want to force something inside that bird cage, and false hopes are empty little mirages, hollow feathers that puff out into nothing when the slightest wind blows. Put all your stock in something like that and your spirits are guaranteed to plummet.
There is no magic bullet. But that doesn't mean you can't hope. Your job is to control what you can, and discover the real deal. There are wonderful RA resources out there to keep you abreast of the current medical trends and trials. Like anything, being hopeful takes work. If you're looking for advice from RA veterans, join the #Rheum Twitter chat each Sunday at 3 PM eastern time.
The next time someone offers you a fishy quick fix, just let the bullet blow on by. You know what is right for your body, you've done the research, you've made an investment in your future. Dodging the bullet becomes easy with time; your bird's hopeful tune drowns out the desperate song of the ignorant peddling their miracle cures.