Where did the pain go?

My knee is healing so quickly! It was so stubborn at first so I thought it was going to be more difficult than the right knee. But some of the exercises I wasn’t even able to do with my right knee until week five, I’ve been able to do with the left within the first three.

And it’s almost straight! Just a few more degrees. I had my stitches removed Monday. It wasnt quite as pretty as my right incision, but Im not complaining.

In fact, I think it’s time to post before and after pics. I’m hesitant, because my legs aren’t the prettiest right now. Or then. But I’m excited so here it goes.

Before

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After

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You can see the right leg poking out just a bit, but it’s almost there 🙂

Can you understand how happy I am? I had to walk around (and not very well!) with those bent knees for years.

I wrote a post once about how sometimes I used to wake up and for a split second before I was fully awake I forgot and I would move to hop out of bed and was surprised that my body was in so much pain.

It’s the opposite with my knees now. Every time I stand, I’m still expecting that excruciating pain I used to feel. And it’s just not there. And it still surprises me. The pain from the surgery is starting to wear off and my knees almost don’t hurt at all! Four years of unbearable pain. Pain that was so bad sometimes all I could manage in a whole day was making a trip to the bathroom.

Two summers ago I was staying with my best friends parents. My best friend came home from college for her birthday and was so excited to spend the day with me. She had all sorts of plans for shopping and movies, and dinner. I woke up early and shuffled so very very very slowly and painfully to the bathroom. Then I sat down in the vanity chair and tried to recover. Everyone woke up an hour later and I was still sitting there. They went out to eat and I said I would try to make shopping latter. When they came back I had managed to walk the ten or so steps to the dinning room table. I sat to recover. I told them I wasn’t going to make the shopping. But I’d try to make the movie. Three hours latter they came back and I had made it to the kitchen eat in counter. I missed the movie. I felt so terrible that I missed her birthday. And then by night time I had finally made it back to bed. I literally sat  all day. And I’ve had so many many many days like this.

Days before the insurance, and medication. Before the steroids and Enbrel. Before the physical therapy and the surgeries. I know what R.A. is at it’s worst and it is horrific. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. And it’s not just pain that it brings. It’s embarrassment and shame, self pity, frustration, anger and disappointment and a whole lot more.

But do you know how lucky we all are who have this disease now? Can you imagine what it was like to have R.A.  even a few decades ago? Treatment plans are so drastically different. We have so many different and more powerful medicines available. I think about that sometimes. If I had been born in my grandmothers time, would my life have been nothing but those kinds of days?

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The Joys of Medication

Its been almost two weeks since I have been allowed to start taking my R.A. meds again. Namely methotrexate and Humira. I’ve had two doses of Methotrexate and one of Humira. This is my first attempt at Humira though. But I’m already loving the fact that I only have to have the injection every two weeks instead of weekly.

I’m already feeling improvements in my hands, wrists, and elbows. I still have three stubborn fingers, but they should get better with time. I know there are alotof people who hate the idea of taking these types of medication. In fact, at least one rude man likes to write to me occasionallyabout the evils of medication, etc. But the fact of the matter is, that after four years of this disease, I know what works for my body. And the only thing that has ever worked for me is the medication.

My father is a huge believer in alternative medicine. Overbearingly so. I have tried many many many things. I have tried almost anything you could possibly think of. Everyone’s body is different and everyone has the right to seek whatever means available to them for treatment. I would never tell anyone who is fighting R.A. holistically that it is useless and a waste of energy and money. Because it does wonders for some people. But it’s not for everyone. Just like pharmaceuticals aren’t for everyone.

I’ve had to argue the point with my Dad until it’s become a sore subject. It’s also an issue online. Bottom line is that I know my body. I know what has given me relief. And I know what hasn’t. I have never had a single negative reaction from any medication in the past four years. (Besides weight gain) So maybe I’m biased, but I’m throwing my towel in with the side that helps me feel less pain. Period. And I don’t regret it. If some of the people who talk down at me for my preference spent one days in my shoes, they might think differently too. 🙂

In other news, it’s been three weeks since my right knee replacement. It is finally starting to get straight! Slowly but surely. Tomorrow I have my follow up appointment and should be able to have my stitches removed. Walkingis still difficult because of my hip pain, but I have an appointment with my Rheummy on Tuesday. As my grandfather would say, I have “a touch” of bursitis in the ole hip. So a shot may fix me up nicely.

My left knee is doing fantastically. I have full range of motion, and have regained alot of strength. I’ve been Miderma-ing the hell out of the scar. There still have not been any complications in the slightest. I know alot of people have had it rough with their joint replacements, so believe me, I know how lucky I am.

So I’ve made a list of three health goals for this summer.

1)Do well enough in rehab so that I can take some art classes at the community college this Fall. Getting back to school has been my one big goal since I was forced to quit. I know Fall will be too soon for the University, but I think slowly readjusting back to school life through the community college will be good.

2)Get my hip pain under control. It’s the only thing holding me back now.

3)Get completely off the Prednisone, and start losing some of the weight I’ve gained. Two years of non stop high doses of steroids= roughly eighty five extra pounds. I still can’t stand to look in the mirror, so it’s good to know that I’m at the end of the hell that is Prednisone.

I think they’re realistic goals. I have complete faith in myself. Even if I cant accomplish all three, it wont be from lack of trying. That’s for sure.

Blogs

I try to keep up with as many R.A. blogs as I can. Lately there has been a huge influx in the amount of them and I couldn’t be more thrilled. There is something so great about stumbling onto a new blog. There is something so comforting in reading someone else write precisely what you’ve been thinking.

It’s so hard to keep up with them all sometimes. I have quite a few in my links section to the right. If there is anyone I have forgotten who wants to be added, just leave me a comment and I’ll add you.

Also if there is anyone who is reading and is suffering from R.A. but doesn’t have a blog, I would love to offer you a guest post to tell your story. There can never be too many.

Back On

Today I was finally able to start all my R.A. meds again. After fifteen weeks without anything but Prednisone, I am thrilled.

I had to stop everything before my first surgery. And since everything kept getting delayed, it meant more time without my meds. It was still worth it. My two most painful joints have been replaced.

The last fifteen weeks have not been easy though. Most mornings I wake up to a stiff and painful jaw, hands that cant even make fists, wrist that feel like they will snap, and elbows that are so painful, they keep me up at night. They are both stuck in a bent position, similar to what my knees were. On top of that, I have two hips that never give me a moments rest.

Most of these joints were reasonably well managed when I was on all my medication. So to say Im thrilled to be going back on is a bit of an understatement.

I find it so odd that something I was terrified of taking in the beginning is something I am ecstatic to take again. With all the side effect warnings, I was sort of scared at first. Now I know the relief that they can offer. And I’ve never had any sort of negative reaction to anything I’ve taken in the last four years.

Im most excited about the fact that I will be able to slowly come off of Prednisone. After two years of continuous use, I am very ready to get off of it. Until I started Prednisone regularly, my weight was always in the 130’s range. Not the case anymore. So Im almost as excited about the lack of Prednisone as I am about my new knees.  🙂

Another New Knee II

Im finally beginning to feel like  myself again. It’s been eight days since my second total knee replacement. It’s been a rough week but Im finally emerging from the fog of medication and pain.

In fact, today I only took a fraction of the pain medication that I have been on the past week.

I had my left knee  replaced six weeks ago. And…….its pretty much completely healed. I have full range of motion and can walk on it with no pain. It’s still a bit stiff sometimes, but that should go away with time.

It’s really amazing. It’s something that is really hard for me to explain. Since my first symptoms hit me over four years ago, my knees were always my worse joints. My ability to walk was immediately and painfully affected. Each step I’ve taken in the last four years has caused me pain. And I’m not exaggerating. Even on my best days, my knees ached. And now after so long, Im so close. So close to a pain free step.

Just one step.

One pain free step. And then another. And then another.

Just thinking about it overwhelms me. I want to scream for joy. And cry in relief. I want to run to the door and yell out that finally, finally, Im going to be ok.

It’s making it a bit difficult for me to wait on my new knee to heal. It’s being a bit more stubborn than the left. In fact, at the moment, it is still just as bent as it was before my surgery. BUT…..It will straighten. It’s just going to take some intense physical therapy. And Lord knows I’m going to put my all into it.

I’m being a bit silly, because I cant help but be slightly disappointed that this one isnt going as easy as the last. I’ve been waiting for years to put on a pair of jeans, look down, and see completely straight and normal looking knees. Haha. It seems like such a small thing. But it will be a very happy day indeed.

On a brighter note, this knee is stronger than the last one thanks to the physical therapy I’ve been doing with the other leg, so I’m recovering faster in that regard. I can get up and down faster and easier, and with no assistance. It’s bending better and at a faster rate than the other.

Just not straightening.

But I have my usual physical therapist back. She was on vacation last week, so I had two different substitutes. They didn’t even actually touch my leg at all. My usual therapist pulls and pushes and stretches. It is actually extremely painful. But it works. And it always feels better afterwards. So now that she’s back I am feeling more optimistic that it will be straight soon enough.

So overall, everything is good. I don’t want to give the impression that total knee replacement surgery is a breeze and anyone should do it without a second thought. But for me, every bit of pain has been completely worth it. It’s hard for me to complain about things like pain and lack of sleep when I’ve been given such a gift. And my ability to walk pain free again. There is no doubt in my mind that this was the right decision. And Im sure that in another five weeks, Im going to be walking all over the place!

Physical Therapy-Guest Post

Why Physical Therapy is Important

There’s nothing more painful than an injury that requires a surgery, except the actual surgery and the recovery process of course. My brother-in-law met with a really bad accident a year ago; his hip bone was crushed and he had to have a series of reconstructive surgeries in order to be able to even think of walking again. The pain was unbearable for months, and he was bed-ridden and completely dependent on his caregivers for even the smallest of things.

But then, the moment physical therapy entered the picture, there was such a marked difference in both his attitude and his feelings – he was more upbeat, and even though he was still in pain, he was able to grin and bear it. It made me and the rest of my family realize how vital physical therapy is to the process of recuperation after a major surgery, especially those that involve setting broken bones, reconstructing torn ligaments, and others that affect movement at the joints. Physiotherapy is important because:

  • It expedites the healing process: When you start physiotherapy with a good therapist, you start feeling better in leaps and bounds. Although the exercises may be painful at first, when you stick with them, they give you considerable relief from the pain and stiffness.
  • It gives you a sense of achievement: Even if you do your exercises for just 30 minutes or so a day, you feel that it’s much better than just lying in bed and doing nothing. Being active, even in the most minimum of ways, gives you a sense of achievement that is important when you’re recovering from a serious injury.
  • It reduces the pain considerably: The exercises themselves may seem to increase the pain, but the truth is that they are carefully designed to minimize it. If you stop doing them because of the pain, your joints and muscles are never going to get back to the way they were before. And the resulting stiffness and unnaturalness are going to make you ache more than ever before.
  • It improves your range of motion and flexibility: Most physical therapy exercises are structured to improve your range of motion and flexibility when you’re trying to recuperate from a surgery at a major joint like the hip or the knee. If you don’t do them properly, you’re going to find yourself with limited movement and may end up limping for life.
  • It enhances muscle strength: Exercises that come later in your recover period are focused on building strength in your muscles. This prevent you from suffering the same injury again (because you do tend to be weak) and also helps you support yourself using your muscles rather than your bones and joints bearing your whole body weight.

By-line:

This article is written by Kat Sanders, who regularly blogs on the topic of online physical therapy assistant schools at her blog Physical Therapy Blog. She welcomes your comments and questions at her email address: katsanders25@gmail.com.

Another new knee

I had my second total knee replacement Monday. It’s been a rough week. And……that is a huge understatement.

There were some serious pain control issues during my hospital stay. There was a horrible horrible nurse who had some sort of personal vendetta against pain meds. So long story short, I check myself out early after sitting all day without any pain meds. I will never use that hospital again.

But now I’m home. I have a home health nurse who is amazing and I am still doing my physical therapy.

This knee replacement hasn’t gone nearly as smooth as the last one. I was expecting it to be much easier, but it’s just not the case.  Im still extremely happy. It’s just through a fog of pain and medication. For the last few days I’ve basically been laying around drooling.

Anyways, I just wanted to write a little update. My next post is actually going to be a guest post. Hope you guys like it. I might start doing them more often.