For some of us, a sudden season of comfort has arrived, out-of-the-blue, unexpected, a daily, even hourly surprise.
But? How in the world could I question an extended break from rheuma pain? Isn’t this what we all dream about? Shouldn’t I be thankful? Why do I need to whistle a little doubt into this delightful interlude?
But I am thankful. Look at me! I can move! I can pick up a heavy pan with just one hand and move it confidently from stove to sink! I hardly think about it. I roll out of bed in the morning and hit the floor running, no laying there for a while working out how stiff I am or what parts of me are too sore to move just yet. In the shower I raise my arms smoothly over my head and scrub shampoo into my hair with fingers that don’t twinge and ache. (I’d sing, but freedom from pain doesn’t mean I can suddenly carry a tune. I’m not expecting miracles, for goodness sakes.) I dress, do chores and walk freely, easily, my body moving as it was made to move. How very strange. Hips. Knees. Ankles. Toes. No hesitancy, no caution necessary.
Painkillers? I don’t need no stinkin’ painkillers! No Tylenol, no Tramadol, no Vicodin. The little bottles sit untouched in my medicine cabinet, hoping to grow cobwebs.
I whisper, “This is good.”
Sure, I’m taking my other rheuma drugs, the ones that “slow” the disease’s progression and “reduce” inflammation. But in the past, taking them didn’t erase stiffness, pain or fatigue, which meant that the rheuma was still active, my joints still inflamed and reacting to the insult. I was bummed. Still, my doctor assured me that in spite of my sore hands and wrists, my blood tests showed that these powerful drugs were doing the job promised. Good sulfasalazine. Good Arava. Never mind the hair loss or the lack of a good defense against infection. Minor annoyances, worth the drop in my sedimentation rate.
My doc is on my side. I have to believe him. He’s my strongest ally – perhaps my only ally – in my forever battle against the rheuma-dragon.
And now today, yesterday, the day before. No pain. The mind boggles.
Deep down, I know why I distrust this sudden, if positive, change. It’s because there’s a word I want so much to use – remission – but I’m afraid to use it. Because of my past experience, for me remission means no RA symptoms for an extended – really extended – period of time. Not days. Not weeks. Not even months. No, for me, remission means years. Many years of life without any kind of rheuma pain, mild, moderate or severe. It means being able to say “zero” to the pain-scale question when the nurse calls me in for my pre-appointment assessment. It means living, moving, being, without pain.
I’m afraid of the word because I know that remission is exceedingly rare in rheumatoid arthritis, even though our doctors like to use the word as the proverbial carrot on a stick. I’m afraid because I once experienced a very long remission – so long that I almost forgot I had RA – only to have it fall apart as the dragon woke suddenly, stretched, discovered he was ravenously hungry and started attacking and biting me again.
Remission? I’d rather have a cure, if you don’t mind.
But you know what? I’m going to shut up. I might not believe in remission any more than I believe in the Tooth Fairy, but I’m not going to complain about my current lack of rheuma pain. I’d rather celebrate it, enjoy every minute that I can get that comes without pain. I know it will be back, probably sooner rather than later, but I’ll deal with that when it comes. For the moment, the dragon is slumbering somewhere deep inside me. I’ll whisper so as not to wake him as I delight in the little things, like making my bed without grimacing, without muttering “ow!” and bluer words beneath my breath as I tug up the sheets. Like enjoying how it feels to walk on the smooth soles of my feet, feet that suddenly have no sharp gravel in them, no throbbing pain with each step.
I can’t help but wonder why the pain is gone. Is it the weather, which is finally becoming summer-like as the Solstice approaches? We’ve had a nice little run of sunny and mostly-sunny days here, with temps in the mid-70s and 80s. No drastic barometric swings, no chilly rain or oppressive heat. Just nice. Sort of like remission…
I’m in good mood. I’m happy for my friends, here in the RA blogosphere, who are also free of debilitating pain at the moment. I hope we all get a good, long holiday. And I hope that those of you who are still battling your dragons minute-to-minute will also get a break real soon. A nice, long breather. Time to rest and recoup. Time to laugh out of joy, not just to cover the pain and keep up the tough image to family and friends.
Just simple, pain-free time. I think we deserve it.