Under pressure

My hands are stiff, achy and swelly tonight. There was a time when I’d have had no idea what could have brought on any particular flare — they all seemed incredibly, frustratingly random.

Sometimes they are. That’s just how rheuma is.

But I know why barometermy hands hurt.  The barometer is rising, and a high pressure area is settling in to the west. That’s all it takes.

Although tomorrow is fall equinox, I live in Northern California, and it’ll be hot outside for the next several days. Temperatures generally stay quite warm through mid-October around here, then it cools down slowly and gently after that. November and December finally feel sharp, crisp and autumny. If we’re lucky, the rains come. My home is in the Sierra mountains about 50 miles west of Lake Tahoe. Even at 3,200 feet above sea level, it usually doesn’t get truly cold until January.

I’d always heard that older people moved to warm, dry states because the higher temps and lower humidity helped their aches and pains. So it always puzzled me that it never seemed to matter what the weather was like when my joints flared. When I was first diagnosed with RA, I lived in Northern Germany, right at the edge of the North Sea. It was damp, windy, cold and rainy about nine months out of the year. Summers were pleasantly warm, never hot, and sometimes humid. The rheuma attacked all year ’round. I absolutely loved it there.

When I returned to California in the early 90s, I thought the warm, dry weather here might help. It didn’t. Wet and cold, warm and dry, it made no difference at all.

I lived here for five years before the RA finally went into remission all on its own. I wasn’t taking any medications for it; I’d gotten tired of popping pills and dealing with unpleasant, risky side effects while never getting any relief from the flares or the pain. I’d given up. I was living with it.

… More to come …