Sunday, 8 January 2012

Rheumatoid arthritis just isn't funny

Perhaps, like me, you associate rheumatoid arthritis, or any type of rheumatics come to that, with the elderly then you are very much mistaken.

I remember my grandmother and my father both having rheumatism and now I regret just passing it off as something that will eventually come to everyone.

I remember years ago talking to my doctor about the severe pains I had in my thumbs and especially around the base of my thumbs, also in my knees but was told I was too young for rheumatism.

I had three strokes and each one left me more disabled mentally and physically. After the last one in 2000 I had hoped to make some sort of recovery but by early 2001 I was still finding things difficult and ended up in hospital again; twice. I was totally exhausted, in pain and really struggling with everyday things. Luckily I have a husband who cares for me despite being ill himself. I found dealing with money and form filling especially difficult and came to rely on my husband more and more. During the second hospital stay I was referred to a psychiatrist would told me I had ME or CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.)

In 2002 we sold our large family home to move in with our younger daughter and her family. She and her husband ran a business and had a baby girl. We were to help with childcare and a little toward the business. We bought an old house as a buy to let investment with a sitting tenant and also bought a second home in France. We spent blocks of time in France and I found that my health was a little improved in the tranquility of the area. Our house was on one floor and had amazing views over farmland, also we had wonderful neighbours. In 2003 our daughter told us she was pregnant again which we were all happy about then the news came about that they had lost the business and they moved temporarily in with her parents in law. In the October she gave birth to a boy and because they had this tiny baby and a toddler they were moved to half way accomodation which was horrible. At least they had a bathroom and kitchen of their own but lived, slept and ate in one room with the baby sleeping in his pram.

So, we were homeless too. We moved in with our elder daughter and her partner but resolved to spend most time in France. They were planning to marry in April 2004 and we were involved in the preparations for that. We went to France for Christmas 2003 and we talked over our situation. What could we do? Then the answer hit us - move to France permenantly. We returned to the UK in January and put the wheels in motion. We obtained the necessary paperwork, made loads of phone calls to assertain if we could continue to receive our benefits and keep medical appointments. One appointment was very important to me, it was regarding the intense pain I have in my back. I saw a lady consultant who told me I would have to learn to live with the pain.

In May 2004 we moved to France permenantly, our new son in law drove a van with most of our possessions; to make sure we went he said! Our people carrier was also packed to the gunnels. The mayor and commune were really happy we had moved permenantly and made us welcome all over again.

That summer I ended up in hospital again and then spent a month in a rehabilitation centre. I was convinced I had suffered a flare of CFS which the doctors and physiotherapists didn't recognise as being an illness. I was happy to get home and start recovering on my own. I did start to improve and I was able to do more and more, little by little. Then in January 2006 my husband was taken seriously ill. We knew we needed to be nearer commerce than the 35 minute drive we had then. We moved to a village on the outskirts of the town and settled into a fairly happy routine. We kept the same GP and pharmacist who became a good friend.

Febuary 2007 brought news I suppose I had been waiting for for sometime, our younger daughter and her husband were to split up. Her husband told her to go and live with us in France and take the children. As we were going back to the UK for her sister's master's degree graduation in the April we said we would bring her and the children back with us on our return.

Soon after arriving our daughter found a job working on canal hotel boats which meant she was away from home a fair bit leaving us with the children. It wasn't easy as both the children and their mum had no knowledge of French and were all thrown in at the deep end. The children were 5 and 3 when they came to France. A few months after starting work our daughter met a Frenchman to whom she is now engaged, this bolstered her spirits and the children took to him straight away.

I fell and broke my shoulder in October 2007 and was out of action for a few weeks but also I was finding everyday things more and more difficult as the task of looking after two children started to have an impact. The following summer we decided to take a holiday. It was lovely just doing what we wanted to do. However, I started getting severe pain in my hands. I saw the GP on my return home and she referred me to a rheumotologist who told me before tests I had rheumatoid arthritis. The tests only confirmed it. I started on medication straight away. I told him about the problems I had had years before and the fact I was diagnosed with CFS. He said from the x-rays he could tell I had had RA for at least 20 years and I could never be too young as children get juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Also the back problem was nearly 30 years old which is correct as I had fallen down stairs about 30 years previously hitting each stair with my lower back, causing the pain I was told I would have to learn to live with.

Since 2008 the arthritis has spread and I also have osteo arthritis and now Osteopenia called a precurser to osteoporosis. I have this in my hips. I am affected from my feet to my jaw. Just before Christmas 2010 I had a really bad chest infection and following that I had flares of the RA every two weeks. In March we went to the UK for a month and I spent a week in hospital with pneumonia, since then I have suffered two weekly flares of the RA again. I am desperately trying to come off of the medication I am on as I am having such bad reactions to them and hoping my rheumotologist will agree.

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