In February 2013, I noticed an unusual stiffness in my left knee. Nothing startling,
I am after all a hair stylist who spends approximately 12 hours a day on my feet in awful footwear choices (brilliant) After some time, my knee started to swell and retain fluid. My amazing doctor sent me to an orthopedic surgeon. Months of fluid removal, knee braces, x-rays, MRIs and blood work all pointed towards an autoimmune disease. Shit. Shit. Shit.
It wasn't until September that I really understood something wasn't right and others took notice as well. Two of my clients (both nurse practitioners, oddly enough) who had no knowledge of my issue asked how long I had been experiencing "that swelling" and how long I had "that shaking in your hands." The fatigue, memory issues, fevers, wonky heart, pleurisy, falling and spreading joint pain (now throughout my body) were coming hard and fast. I had been waiting nearly 5 months for an initial rheumatology appointment and December couldn't come quick enough.
Within moments of meeting my doctor I felt immediate relief. Rheumatologists are like crackerjack investigators, working to solve unusual mysteries as conclusively as possible.
After a thorough Q&A and examination, the doc agreed something was wrong and ordered a menu-sized blood panel and some x-rays. 3 weeks later I would have some clarity.
Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease. Basically, my body has "turned on"
this autoimmune disease. My immune system is attacking healthy tissue and eventually joints
thinking that the healthy cells are foreign. This condition will eventually present itself as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis (both lifelong conditions), so in the meantime, it gets treated with a drug my grandfather took decades ago (plaquenil) for his dibilitating RA (rheumatoid arthritis) until it branches off and needs to be treated more aggressively (i.e. biologic drug therapy).
Me and my Grandpa George, circa 1982 (a few months before his passing)
So what now? I dunno. Making necessary adjustments...learning. My current treatment could take a few more months to show some true progress. I can tell you that I'm already "over it" meaning, it's annoying as f#$k...BUT...one thing I know for sure (Oprah reference!) is that I am built and wired for a battle. There is no way in hell I am going to retreat from attempting to make this the best possible scenario. I've got some pretty amazing friends and family who I can count on for a good belly laugh and an occasional pick me up. Believe that.
The super-great news? I'm aight. Business as usual round these parts...just a little more discomfort and bellyaching than usual. Wife and Mommy duties are fine (check) and once I get a little more footing as far as limitations I'll be working more too (check, check). Just a little update for those of you I don't get to see or talk to as often as we'd like.