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.