Thorns in the Flesh

One of my friends has rheumatoid arthritis like I do, only hers has affected her lungs. She had to start on a new medication recently, one that I took for five years. I tried to reassure her. Medications affect us all differently, but the one prescribed for her hadn’t caused me any serious harm.

Still, my friend hesitated. As we talked, she finally let the thing about the medicine that was bothering her slip. One of its side effects, one that I hadn’t seriously considered, was losing your hair. She felt silly about holding off on the med for that reason, but she doesn’t want to lose her hair.

I don’t think that makes her silly at all. As women, hair is a big thing to us. I tried to reassure her, but I don’t know how well I did. She is still at the mad stage of finding out you have a chronic disease, but mad is a part of grief. I found that out, and I find it out again and again as something else goes wrong. You just don’t want to face it right away.

Three weeks ago, I had some dental work done, and I came home with pain, but not on the side where the filling was repaired. I couldn’t figure it out, but I have learned that much of what happens to my body because of RA doesn’t make sense, so I decided to wait it out. Obviously, having my mouth open had irritated my jaw. It would get better.

Except it hasn’t. I can’t open my mouth wide enough to take a bite of a banana or put a fork full of food into my mouth. I’m not wasting away… I guess I am determined when it comes to food. Still, the pain and not being able to open my mouth like I could three weeks ago is annoying. I went back to the dentist today hoping against hope that he would have an easy answer.

I should have known better. The answer was to call my rheumatologist, but I don’t want to do that because the last time I saw him, he told me I was headed into a flare and increased my medication.

If you don’t have a chronic disease, you might not know this, but they involve a LOT of medication. So much so that now I have to carry a list with me so that I can remember all the dosages. And of course, every time the meds are increased, that means the disease is not under control, and I don’t know what it is up to.

I hate that.

Which is probably why I waited and went to the dentist today instead of calling the rheumatologist. See, I am afraid of what will happen if the problem with my jaw is not just a result of inflammation. Having RA has altered the life I expected to have quite a bit, and I am not sure I am ready for more changes.

Doesn’t seem like I have a choice, though. And the rheumy is at least a place to start. Sometimes they have shots and things that can get the disease under control. Maybe things are not as bad as I think they are.

I was diagnosed in 2001, and it often surprises me that I have to grieve anew when things go downhill. I grieve just like Hannah was grieving that she had to take her new medicine. I grieve because I don’t want things to be worse. Personally, I hate pain, and I am capable of scaring myself silly thinking about joint replacements and other such issues.

But since the dentist didn’t have a magic answer, I will have to face the music, so to speak. And I am sure there is a lesson in there for me somewhere. I wrote in my “About” page that I think RA has made me a better person, and although I still hate the fact that I have it, I think that it has. RA has slowed me down, and while there are some disadvantages to that, I think the slowing has made me a better listener. And instead of taking the things I can do for granted, I have learned that I often have to be thankful for what each day brings. I can play with the grandsons today. It doesn’t do to worry about how that will work next year.

I don’t know God’s mind, of course, so I don’t know why this thorn has been with me for so long. I don’t know if my disease will ever go into remission or be healed. But I do know that all things work together for those who love God, so I know that even through this, I am becoming more the person that God wants me to be. Somewhere in there, I am learning.

Now I just have to resolve to actually call the rheumatologist.

That may take some prayer.


2 Responses to “Thorns in the Flesh”

  1. 1 writeathome January 25, 2007 at 12:32 am

    I know some things are not easy to bear, such as physcial suffering. However, I think you have the right attitude about it, and it’s good that you can see how RA has made you a better person. You have used what you’ve gone through too to be able to relate to your friend and give her reassurance. I think sometimes God allows us to go through things so we can help others. Anyhow, I just want you to know that you will be in my prayers.



  2. 2 Becky January 25, 2007 at 6:16 pm

    Thanks, Carol. I did call the rheumatologist today. Your prayers are working already :). Usually I spend quite a while working up to it.

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