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Rheumatoid Arthritis

Is it ok to fail?

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Today I had to call out. I am typically good at putting on a brave face and getting myself to work. With my multiple surgeries over the past few years, I only took off the actual surgery day, and sometimes the day after, and was right back to working full time, teleworking if I had to. But today? I had to call out.

I’ve had a rough few days with my joints- could be the weather, stress, something I ate, or the simple fact that Rheumatoid Arthritis is a bully of a disease and will ultimately get its way.

I feel like I failed. I feel angry. Disappointed. Isolated.

But mostly, I feel weak. I feel owned by my body and the diseases that plague it. The physical pain has slowed me today- I don’t feel mentally sharp, I feel emotional.

And I don’t like it.

But have my years of pushing forward despite my illnesses, given me an irrational view of “success”? So much so that needing to take a day to rest makes me feel like I’ve thrown in the towel on working forever?

Society shows “normal” people taking DayQuil to get to that important meeting and taking energy shots to get everything on their list checked off.

Even the latest Enbrel commercial shows a child who “gets his Mom back” after she starts taking the medication for Rheumatoid Arthritis. My daughter watched that commercial and asked me if I’ve ever tried Enbrel (yes).

I try to show the good and bad of my diseases- the injections, the gym triumphs. But I need to do a better job. I need to show days like today- a day where I called out of work and have not moved from the couch or eaten a single thing. Because if someone out there is “pushing through” because they’ve seen my feeds, then I’m doing a disservice to them, my disease communities, and more importantly, myself.

So yes, sure, I failed today. I failed to push myself to go to work despite horrible pain and stiffness. I failed to hold back my tears and act like everything was fine.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Type 1 Diabetes

I am afraid of my body.

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My system (used here to reference my entire being- mind, body, and soul) is a mess. It’s as if my body and mind are two separate organisms who used to be friends but now barely utter a “hello” when they see each other.

I find myself constantly tiptoeing around, afraid to set off the bad temper my body has. I slowly get dressed, pulling on compression socks in slow motion as to not upset my already very sensitive leg muscles. I sleep in compression tights in hopes of not waking up in serious pain throughout the night.

I snack on pretzels all day long, starting early in the morning as I drive to work. I try to have something salty in my stomach in hopes that I won’t find myself vomiting, seemingly out of nowhere. I chug electrolyte enhanced water, even when I’m not thirsty at all, to try to appease my body and it’s abnormal sodium need.

My mind gets angry when my continuous glucose monitor beeps incessantly while I’m trying to sleep. My blood sugars are rising and falling without much warning lately.

The unpredictable nature of my body lately, especially the violent vomiting, has my mind feeling so many emotions. I’m fearful of the intense pain that I’ve been feeling lately. I’m nervous that I could vomit in the middle of the grocery store, without warning, especially since I just got quite ill at work and am still embarrassed. I’m frustrated that others take their good health for granted. I’m sad that this is the body I’ve been dealt with.

But I’m also proud. I’m proud that I am still working full time with additional advocacy work on the side. I’m proud that because of my illnesses, I’m raising two very empathetic children who understand that a lot of diseases are invisible. I’m proud that despite the pain and vomiting, I still make myself go to the gym a few days a week for a pretty intense workout. I’m proud that I’ve created this outlet to share my life so I can connect with others and show them that they are never alone in the battle with their own body.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Is your medication still working for you?

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Like a lot of people with multiple chronic diseases, my medication list is long. Some medications, like insulin, are a no brainer for me- they are absolutely necessary. But sometimes I find myself wondering if I still need everything on my list.

When my rheumatologist realized I was losing a lot of time to my methotrexate “hangover”, she asked me to try a half dose and see if that made a difference. It didn’t. I still slept away my Sunday. She asked me to skip a week of injecting methotrexate. And we learned, I still slept away my Sunday. And I felt awful without my weekly dose of that magical yellow liquid. So lesson learned- methotrexate helps me and regardless of my medications, my body needs a day each week to rest and do nothing else.

When I started Rituxan last summer, I quickly learned that it is an excellent medication for me. I’ve noticed over the past 3 months that I have less pain. I still flare and have pain in my damaged joints that I need my breakthrough pain meds for. But I’ve wondered if I really need my Butrans patch?

You might be asking- if your pain is controlled and you’re feeling better, why would you want to change things up? When I initially was prescribed Butrans, my pain was a mess. My pain owned me. I was managing multiple medications during my work day to try to keep my pain somewhat under control. My evening breakthrough meds weren’t always able to bring my pain down.

We decided to try Butrans to get a low opioid dose in my system all day, without having to take even more pills. The hope was that this patch would give me enough relief that my breakthrough meds could really help me. And that is exactly what happened.

Since starting on the patch, I had major knee surgery and started Rituxan. I’ve also lost some weight and worked on my diet (still very much a work in progress).

I mentioned discontinuing Butrans to my pain management physician and she agreed with trying to lower my dose or get rid of the patch completely. But she did ask me to get through the holidays and my next set of infusions before attempting a change.

So here we are. Today I’m going to drop my dose down by 50%. If that goes well for 2 weeks, I’m going to try not using a patch at all. Although I’m staying optimistic, I also realize that my pain may come back rearing its ugly head. And that’s ok. I’ll know that my body needs this medication and it’s worth the cost and side effects. I won’t have to wonder if I need it, I’ll know. And knowledge is all I’m looking for.

Favorite Things Rheumatoid Arthritis

Review: TechCare TENS Unit, a must have for chronic pain!

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I have been given this product as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.

I have a lot of products that I’ve acquired in my battle against the pain Rheumatoid Arthritis brings. Lotions, patches, creams, pills, compression braces for almost every joint in my body, and a TENS machine. Some work great, others not so much. Some were planned purchases, others acquired out of desperation (when you’re at the grocery store and your body somehow ends up in the pain relief aisle and you are looking up and down because there has to be something new).

When the opportunity to try and review the  TechCare TENS massager came up, I jumped at the chance. I already own a TENS machine- I’ve had it for almost five years. Initially it was great but as my disease progressed and my pain increased, the machine couldn’t keep up. I was maxing out intensity and not getting much relief. My physical therapist tried to order me a new one yet my insurance decided that even though I lived in Maryland and my insurance policy was Maryland based, it would only be covered if I lived in Pennsylvania. Go figure.

I’m now happy that I couldn’t get a machine through my insurance because I probably wouldn’t have tried the TENS from TechCare. The TENS unit that I absolutely adore and use daily. The TENS unit that provides me with immediate, intense relief.

So why do I love this unit? Let me count the ways:

  1. It’s rechargeable. Ahh, no batteries! And the charge lasts for multiple uses and recharges quickly.
  2. Intensity. Whoa. Going from my run of the mill TENS unit (at a comparable price as well) to this has been amazing. I have yet to use the intensity above 60% and that’s with knee pain that requires surgery this week.
  3. Can use 4 electrodes at the same time. This is awesome. I can have one set programmed to work on my extremely painful knee and have the other set massaging my calf muscle which tightens up from pain.
  4. Six massage modes- tapping, acupuncture, deep tissue, foot, cupping, or a combination.
  5. Time- my previous TENS only allowed 20 minute treatments. This allows you to dial up to 60 minutes and keep adding time as you wish.

Here’s what is included in the box:

1 controller: this unit is lightweight, painless to operate (RA has not been kind to my hands)

3 pairs of electrodes: small oval shape, medium oval, and larger rectangle; the multiple sizes are great- small ones work well on my elbow or wrist whereas the large rectangles are perfect for my legs

2 electrode cables: this enables you to use 2 sets (4 pads) at once

1 carrying bag: dark blue, drawstring, and everything, including the charger, fits inside

1 usb charger with wall adapter: easy to charge whether it’s via your computer or a regular outlet

1 electrode pad and wire holder: these are great and my only complaint would be that the kit included a total of 3; I tend to use all 3 sets of pads and have kept the plastic sheets they came with to stick the pads on when not in use

1 user manual: this leaves a bit to be desired- although it explains how to use and care for the product, it doesn’t explain the different modes in detail

1 treatment points chart: I honestly haven’t used this- it looks very similar to the charts you would see in an acupuncturist’s office; I tend to just place the pads where I’m having pain

The bottom line:

This TENS unit from TechCare is awesome, worth its low price, and a definite must have for patients with chronic pain. Interested in purchasing one of these TENS units for yourself? Check them out on Amazon:

Hope Rheumatoid Arthritis

Don’t make decisions for tomorrow based on today. 

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Today was one of the worst days I’ve had in my five year battle with Rheumatoid Arthritis. I woke up hurting but taped myself together and took three tabs of ibuprofen as I dropped my son off at school.

As soon as I got on the road to start my 50 minute commute, my elbows (freshly taped this morning) were so painful and felt so weak that I had to switch back and forth between each arm to hold the steering wheel. My hands started swelling and my knuckles wouldn’t crack, no matter how hard I tried. I grabbed my heavy compression gloves and put them on at a red light.

My knee decided to join the party a few minutes later. Since I was driving, there wasn’t much I could do except massage it (and punch it) with the tennis balls I keep in my center console.

By the time I arrived to work, my eyes were red from crying and I was exhausted.  Continue reading

Rheumatoid Arthritis

I’m tired.

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This morning I went to the ortho to follow-up on my shoulder and knee. My shoulder isn’t better even after an injection two weeks ago. My knee pain is some of the worst I’ve ever felt in my life. Last night it took three hydrocodone pills, ice, elevation, and plenty of tears to get my pain manageable. Earlier this week I called my new rheumatologist’s office to see if they had any cancellation spots, for the millionth time. She’s out of the office this week, so that little glimmer of hope got annihilated. I now have to fit Physical Therapy into my life to try to get my right knee strong enough to have surgery on the other knee. Continue reading

Rheumatoid Arthritis

I Did Something Crazy

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This weekend, I did something crazy. Instead of fighting against Rheumatoid Arthritis, I let it win. I let my body rest when I felt tired, I went out when I felt good, ate when I was hungry, and worked when I felt inspired. And I took pain meds when I was hurting.

I did a lot more resting than usual. Any other weekend, I would have gulped caffeine and pushed on. There would have been tears throughout the day- from the pain, from the exhaustion. But not this weekend.  Continue reading

Favorite Things Rheumatoid Arthritis

A Glowing Review for the Oska Pulse

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I have been given this product as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in now way influenced by the company.

To say I was skeptical when I first saw the Oska Pulse would be an understatement. How could a little, glowing, UFO looking device, help my intense, chronic pain from Rheumatoid Arthritis? In short, it could and it did.


For over 60 years, PEMF signals (Pulsed electromagnetic fields), similar to those in the Oska Pulse, have been used to treat pain and edema in soft tissue. It’s been established that tissues, including blood, muscle, ligaments, bone, and cartilage respond to biophysical input. Where there is better blood flow (circulation), better structure, and turnover of old structures, significant improvement is possible. The signaling processes of the Oska Pulse are wide enough to respond to the majority of pain experiences and to help the body start its natural internal recovery processes. There are multiple scientific clinical studies that demonstrate the pain relief effects from PEMF signals, click here to learn more.

In short- pain radiates from a damaged area of the body and that same area then exhibits inflammation. When PEMF is applied, your body is stimulated to repair and renovate the damaged area. Immediate relief is delivered by reducing inflammation and long term relief is delivered from the repair mechanisms your body implements while using the Oska Pulse. Continue reading

Rheumatoid Arthritis Type 1 Diabetes

It’s Not Pretty

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This is what I look like after:

  • Spending my commute screaming f*ck because the sciatic pain was at its worst
  • Trying to work all day with a fever
  • Being unable to get my blood sugar down because the pain is causing it to rise
  • Drinking a ridiculous amount of caffeine so I don’t fall asleep driving home later
  • Sitting on an ice pack all day because I can’t get my back to stop hurting
  • Getting ready to drive home with my sciatic nerve feeling like someone is stabbing me up and down my leg

Just living with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Type 1 Diabetes is hard enough but working full time and caring for a family is a battle a lot of patients, like me, fight every day.

I’d be disrespecting myself and my community if I only showed my “good” photos and didn’t share my struggles. So here I am. It isn’t pretty.


Rheumatoid Arthritis

What you don’t see

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When you see me at work in the morning, you don’t know what it took just to get me in the door. I drive with the heated seats on, air conditioning blowing, tennis ball lodged between my hip and the center console, an ice pack around my knee, and pain meds on board. Even with all of that, I am still typically gripping the steering wheel in pain, just trying to get to work so I can get out of the car and move my joints.


When you see me at the gym, wearing my headphones, working out next to you, you don’t see what it took to get me there. You don’t know that every afternoon, my pain increases substantially, a fever sets in..I feel like I have the flu. Every. Day. I have to convince myself to go to the gym because I know the movement is good for me. There are days I cry on the commute to the gym but power through because I won’t let this disease dictate every single thing I do.


When you see me park in the handicapped spot at Target and get out of the car, smiling at my daughter, you don’t see the struggle behind my happy face. You don’t know that one good trip to Target will knock me out for the day. You don’t know that my daughter says she enjoys going with me because I’m funny and we have a good time, but that I know she knows that I need help.


If there is one blessing I’ve gotten from my Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosis, it is that I’m aware of what I might not be seeing. I encourage you to not judge those with a chronic illness, to not question the amount of pain they are in, or how awful their suffering really is. And to go a step further, when you see someone slowly walking across the road, instead of feeling frustrated that they are slowing you down, take a minute to realize that she may be going as fast as she can.