The last time I visited my rheumatologist, I told him about the creeping, growing pain in my hands. I told him I was afraid of it; that this insidious pain reminds me, constantly, of how truly awful the pain was in the bad old days, back when my rheuma-dragon was young and impossibly strong and voracious. How the medications I was given to combat him were worse than useless. And how I fear that the ones I take now might be losing their effectiveness.
Is there something else I could try? I asked.
He acknowledged my pain and my fear, but counseled prudence. My sedimentation rate (which indicates levels of inflammation in the body) was indeed higher than it had been in a long while, but not nearly as high as it had been when I first started seeing him in 2009. He said that should my RA continue to get worse, we could try a biologic DMARD. The VA currently offers Humira or Enbrel.
Switching to the heavies, though, he said, was a big step, and one I shouldn’t take lightly. I should read up on them, learn all I could about them first. These drugs, he cautioned, can have serious side-effects. They can be miraculous, but I should consider my options carefully before I make a decision to try them.
And then he said something I’ve never had a doctor say to me before. In the meantime, he said, looking directly into my eyes, I should “try to live each and every day to the fullest. Appreciate every moment.”
I assured him that I would. He wished me well, said he’d see me again in three months, and went on to his next patient.
Bemused, I drove home.
If you’ve read RheumaBlog for long, you know that I’m an avid advocate of mindfulness, of living in the now, the present moment. You know that I try to look for the gifts the world offers every day, and that I try to appreciate and be thankful for what I have rather than worry about what I don’t.
And while I’m only human—I sometimes get bogged down in the mundane, mucky swamps of life—I do try very hard to “live each and every day to the fullest.”
I really do. I discovered the value of mindful awareness back in the bad old days, when the pain and disability of my RA was so new and fearsome and devastating. I learned to look for the gifts of each day: the fairy ring of mushrooms hiding in the back lawn, the blackbird singing his trickle of liquid notes in the hedge just before dawn, the scent of gardenias in the air at dusk, reading “The Hobbit” aloud to my small daughter just before bed. Small things, all of them, but precious. Always precious and so fleeting.
Sabine, who writes the blog “Interim Arrangements”, recently wrote about another serious and important thing: mindful kindness:
And she shared this, a quote from a medical expert she once interviewed :
“While modern medicine cannot cure your illness, understand that your most important human qualities – your personality, your feelings, your intellect, your memory, your ability to love and be loved – are not restricted by being ill, not now and not in future.“
Wow. I think that’s what my doctor really meant. What an excellent truth, an excellent gift, to step into the New Year with!
I wish that truth for all of you in 2014. May your New Year be filled with hope, with love, and with quiet happiness.
Thanks for the great post, Wren. Wishing you all the best in 2014.
May 2014 have many mindful moments for you and may the dragon stay away – or at least remain just that little itsy one we can handle.
I am mentally sending you a sword and shield to slay that dragon. All the best for the New Year.
Truly a powerful message, Wren, for today and especially for tomorrow. `
A very Happy New Year to you too – and a very apposite quote to go into the New Year with! Thank you for that! 🙂
Thank you so much for this very timely reminder Wren. I am hoping that in the new year- after my “Back to School” insanity dies down- we can reconnect. I know I have been very neglectful and for that I apologize. I appreciate you- and your posts- more than you can every know. A very happy new year to you and yours. ❤ Jules
Wren, wishing you a dragon free 2014!
Great blog Wren I enjoyed reading it and your so right, we all need to appreciate the small things in life that gives us pleasure and takes our minds off our pain for awhile, live for the moment, take it day to day. Wishing the best for you in this new year.- Pen52