Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Please Pee In This Hat. Again.

TMI Warning: This post contains details about pregnancy that you may consider to be too much information. Don't say I didn't warn you!

In January, the OBs did a baseline test on me for preeclampsia. And, now that I'm finally in my third trimester, it's time to see how my current results compare to the ones they found back then. So that means its Round 2 of "please pee in this hat and collect 24-hours worth of urine in this jug!"

Luckily, I'm feeling (more or less) fine and I don't seem to be exhibiting any of the other symptoms of preeclampsia - as far as I can tell the test is just a precaution. So I'm staying home today, taking it easy, resting my hips, and peeing in the hat. Tomorrow I will drop off my jug-o-pee at the lab and get some bloodwork done.

Oh, the joys of being pregnant!!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Talk To The Other Guy

Over the past few weeks, I've really been getting the feeling that the remission I experienced in my second trimester just isn't going to last through my third. I feel like the pain in my hips and hands is only getting worse, and I'm just feeling so stiff and sore and fatigued all of the time. I know that at least some of this discomfort must be due to the pregnancy itself, but the ache is just so familiar that I can't help but feel like my RA is making a comeback.

Since I still have a few weeks of pregnancy to survive and I feel like things are only getting worse, I figured it was time to talk to my doctors. So I shared my concerns with my OB and with my rheumatologist, and I asked them both what my options are.

Unfortunately, neither was a particularly useful conversation. Both vaguely mentioned the possibility of prednisone, but I expressed my general dislike of that option and asked if there were any others. And, in response, both basically said this: talk to the other guy.

Awesome. That's right! My OB said to ask my rheumatologist. My rheumatologist said to ask my OB.

So.....exactly what is it that I'm supposed to do now?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

My Hips Are Made of Fire

I've been playing this iPhone game with my friends called "Draw Something." It's basically the Pictionary version of Words With Friends, only much more hilarious because neither I, nor any of my friends, are particularly good artists (especially with our big fat fingers on our tiny iPhone screens). So we've had a lot of good laughs at the expense of our lack of drawing expertise. 

So, in honor of my newly developing Skills of an Artist, I have drawn you this picture of myself and how my hips are feeling today. 

My hips are made of fire.

They are literally hot to the touch and man do they hurt. Tylenol, the approved pregnancy pain killer, isn't doing jack to help. And I just can't seem to find a comfortable position to put them in. Standing or walking around seems to exhaust me and make my hips ache more. Sitting (like I'm doing right now at my desk) is the worst (hence, I won't be doing it for much longer.) The best option seems to be laying down with an ice pack on each hip, but that, of course, is not particularly conducive to getting anything at all done. 

It seems like it would feel good to lay on my belly and push up, bending the hips back in the opposite direction - like that yoga pose - but the baby in my belly most certainly gets in the way of that option. And other efforts to stretch my hips on my own have only resulted in uncomfortable pulling on my belly. I'm going to force myself out the door to pilates this afternoon with the hope that my instructor can help me stretch my hips without aggravating my belly and find me at least a little bit of relief (but my regular instructor, who I've worked with for almost two years now, is out of town - so I'll be working with a new person this week and I'm not holding my breath about the results.)

In the meantime, I guess I'll have to count laying on the couch and watching crappy TV while growing a human as a productive activity - cause I'm not sure my hips are up for much else today. And, while I do that, I'm going to try not to be too hard on myself about how unproductive I feel. Ru Paul's Drag Race here I come! And, as Ru Paul says: If you can't love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else? Amen, Ru Paul. Amen.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

2012 Arthritis Advocacy Summit

In case you didn't know, the 2012 Arthritis Advocacy Summit is happening right now in Washington D.C!!

Honestly? I'm a little bit bummed that I'm not there myself. I was offered a stipend from the Denver Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation to attend the Summit, but seeing as I'm in the eighth month of my pregnancy (eighth?!?! How on earth did that happen?!?!) and some of my RA symptoms have returned, traveling is pretty much out of the question right now. Which is a bummer.

Luckily, there are some ways to check in online to see what is going on with the conference. The Arthritis Foundation has a Livestream of some of the events. I watched a few speeches this morning - and when I checked in just now they were showing a JA slideshow set to Katy Perry's "Firework" (which really made me smile because it was a lot like the one I made for JA Camp last year!!)

There are even some things you can do to contribute to the efforts remotely. So far, the Arthritis Foundation has posted three actions you can easily take from home:
Action #1: The heavy toll arthritis takes is unacceptable and those suffering deserve access to care. Write a letter to your Members of Congress urging them to End Discrimination Against Specialty Tier Medications. Click here to take action!!
Action #2: Write a letter to your Members of Congress urging them to Increase Access to Pediatric Rheumatologists. Click here to take action!!
Action #3: Research holds the key to preventing, controlling and curing arthritis, the nation's leading cause of disability. Send a letter to your Members of Congress requesting their support to Fund Arthritis Research at the Department of the Defense. Click here to take action!!
It's best if you make these letters personal by including your own story, but even if you don't have time to do that you can still help the advocacy efforts by sending the form letter in just a few clicks. And, if you "like" the Arthritis Foundation Facebook page, additional action alerts will show up in your Facebook newsfeed during the Summit.

Next year, I'm really hoping to be able to attend the Summit in person - I'd love it even more if APL and the baby could be there with me. But, since I'm stuck at home for the time being, I'm really glad there are still ways that I can easily contribute. And so can you!!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Morning Stiffness

For the past three(ish) weeks, I've been waking up every single morning feeling like I have absolutely been run over by a truck. Multiple times. Or maybe like my body is filled with rocks. Or possibly both. It's a very frustrating way to start the day.

I'm sure the extra weight and my big belly and the tiny person taking over my insides all play a role in this soreness. Pregnancy, as I have discovered, takes more of a toll on your body than I ever expected.

But, try as I might, I just can't help thinking about how eerily familiar all morning stiffness feels, especially combined with the last few weeks of hip and hand pain. I can't help thinking about days before my diagnosis, when I could barely drag myself out of bed and I had no idea why. Or about all those days after my diagnosis, when I could barely drag myself out of bed and it didn't make it any easier to know why.

I'm really trying not think about the fact that it seems very much like my RA is on its way back - and may already be here. But, honestly, that is so much easier said than done. Especially in the morning when I wake up feeling totally beat up instead of at all rested. When I wonder how on earth I will get through the day and the tiniest tasks - like deciding what to make for dinner - seem almost impossible.

I'm also trying to ignore my worries about how I will ever care for a small human if I feel anything like this after he arrives, but that is also easier said than done.

I'm certain that I will get through all this - and I am so grateful to have APL always by my side to help me when I need it. And I'm positive this will all be worth it in the end. It's just that....some days everything seems a whole lot harder than it ought to be.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Shelly Baer

This morning I read a very inspirational article about Shelly Baer, who was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis at age 3. Unfortunately, her arthritis was extremely aggressive, and she eventually ended up with physical deformities and several joint replacements.

The article explains Shelly's difficult transformation from child to teen to adult - while she attempted to come to terms with what the arthritis did to her body. She eventually learned to see her own beauty and transformed her disability into a platform for helping others and changing how we view disability. It's a really amazing story.

But, better than letting the article explain it to you, let Shelly explain it to you herself - in her amazing TED Talk in Miami:

Monday, April 9, 2012

How Many Weeks Did You Say Were Left?

TMI Warning: This post contains some details about pregnancy that you may consider to be too much information. I'm going to use some female anatomy words and everything!! Don't say I didn't warn you!

When I first found out that I was pregnant, 40 weeks seemed like an eternity. And there were some days before I hit week 13 (when my morning sickness finally died down) that I literally thought I would never survive this ordeal.

But now I've reached a point in my pregnancy where the weeks remaining number in the single digits. It turns out this baby thing is actually happening - and soon!! These days he kicks me vigorously enough that sometimes I expect that scene from Alien (or Spaceballs, preferably).  They even gave me my hospital admission forms at my last prenatal appointment. It's really hard to believe.

There's good news and there's bad news about how I have been feeling lately.

The bad news is that my hands have not improved at all since they started hurting almost two weeks ago. In fact, I honestly think they may be getting worse. I have a couple of finger joints that are consistently visibly swollen, and it's getting increasingly difficult to get things done with my hands without a lot of pain. To make matters worse, my hips have really started acting up as well. And all the stretching, resting, soaking, and Tylenol in the world doesn't really seem to do anything to help either of these problems.

It actually isn't clear whether all this joint pain is RA-related or pregnancy-related (or both?) I mean, throughout this pregnancy I have discovered that just being pregnant does extremely weird things to your body. And, for example, another pregnant friend tells me she's having swelling in her hands too (though no pain). It also seems to make sense that my hips would hurt since the baby is growing so fast - and, consequently, so is my belly and the amount of weight my hips are being forced to support. (In fact, the OB told me on Thursday that he will grow half a pound per week from now on!!! What?!?!?). 

But... I also have to admit that all this joint pain and soreness and stiffness is eerily familiar. If I could forget for a minute that I am pregnant I wouldn't hesitate to call this an RA flare. Sometimes it makes me wonder whether my "remission" is actually going to last through these last few weeks - maybe it's already over - and that thought can make even the few weeks remaining feel like an eternity. And, of course, the way I have been feeling lately makes me feel a little anxious about the potential severity of the inevitable post-birth flare. I mean, if I'm this achy while I'm still pregnant, what will happen when I don't have the "benefit" of pregnancy and I still haven't re-started my RA meds?

It can get a little overwhelming to think about, so I am honestly trying not to. If I'm going to have a bad RA flare now - or after the birth for that matter - there's literally nothing I can do to stop it, so there's no sense getting upset about it. I'm just trying to take it easy, go slow, and focus on the good things that are happening.

And there is good news too!! At our last prenatal appointment we discovered that, with the crazy growth spurt our little one has recently gone through, my placenta has moved far enough away from my cervix that there is no more risk of placenta previa! And this is great news! While it doesn't completely rule out the possibility of needing a C-section, it does really reduce the likelihood. And it also means that we won't have to rush the baby and bring him out early at 37 weeks - now he can take his sweet time and come out when he feels good and ready. And that makes me really happy.

So, while I wait out these last few weeks, I'll just do what I can to reduce my pain and/or distract myself. I'm planning to focus on taking care of myself - I even booked myself a prenatal massage for tomorrow - because I know that I won't have that luxury for very much longer!!