Saturday, January 30, 2016

Love - Hate Relationship

I started a 12 day prednisone taper the other day. I just could not take the pain and the extreme fatigue that I have experienced for the past week and a half. The fatigue was so bad on Tuesday that I have no idea what my professor was talking about during my qualitative methods class.

I have a love-hate relationship with prednisone. Actually, I have a love-hate relationship with all the meds that I take for RA. All of them have done a good job of keeping the disease from progressing. My pain level is significantly lover. Most days, it's nonexistent. And, I've had fewer flares of the past couple of years. But, there are some serious side effects that I worry about. Prednisone can do some serious damage to the liver and stomach. Enbrel suppresses the immune system, making it easier to contract an infection. Those infections can be fatal, as in the case of Glenn Frey. Enbrel can also cause lymphoma. There are those who blame the meds for Glenn Fry's death. And, they are partially correct. He was allegedly taking one of the biologic meds for RA. He allegedly had pneumonia, which was taking a while to recover.

Of course, I am vigilant with getting my bloodwork done every 10 weeks. In fact, the people at the lab all know me, which comes in handy. I only use a prednisone taper if I absolutely have to do so. The last one I had was a year ago, and that was for a serious sinus infections. I do everything possible to keep myself healthy. My RA doc is amazing and she works with me to keep me in the best health possible.

Yet, I still get scared sometimes. It's not RA that kills you. It is the medications and the other problems that come with RA that can kill you. It's like those commercials you see on TV where the side effects of the medication sound worse than the disease?  As I am in my 19th year of fighting (4 years not knowing and 15 years diagnosed)  RA, I can't help but wonder how much longer my body will be able to handle all that the meds are doing to my body. I try to stay positive by looking at all of the good that resulted from my meds, i.e. running, no disease progression or joint damage. But, it's pretty scary sometimes.

I bet Glenn Frey had the same love-hate relationship with his meds as I do. The meds allowed him to ride the ebb and flow that is RA for a while without, I'm guessing, too much hassle. Maybe, like me, the benefit was greater than the risk. I don't regret taking these meds. I know the good they can do and the harm they can do. I don't think Glenn Frey had regrets either. With RA, it's about survival and living the best life you can.

Love it or hate it, we have to do what we need to do to survive..for as long as we can.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


I am three weeks into the semester at PhD U and two weeks in at HBCU. Usually at this stage, I am have a routine and a rhythm  going with my studies, teaching, and everything else that I have to do in my crazy life. However this semester, I feel disconnected. I am struggling to find a routine. I am floundering through all of my responsibilities with little sense of direction.

I think some of it has to do with having a minor RA flare last week. It was not enough to keep me home unable to function. But, it was enough to slow me down enough that I am having trouble refocusing my efforts. Part of the problem with RA is that the flares just zap so much of your energy, including brain function. I like to think of it as walking around in a haze or fog. I suppose it's just part of the body attacking itself, but it sure doesn't help when you need to think about a lot of deep shit. The flare has kept me from exercising, which really helps keep my endorphins bouncing. But, with the pain, I just didn't want to make things worse. So, I did nothing until this past Sunday when I walked briskly on the treadmill for 2 miles.

Also, there is just something different about this semester. I am not sure what it is. I can't put my finger on it. This semester just feels different.  I have a large online class at HBCU, no surprise there. But, I have more than my fair share of students who need my attention. Some in a very legitimate way, such as disability issues, which I am more than happy to accommodate. Having a disability makes me a very sensitive to another person's disability accommodation. I have a lot of students who do not have the money for the textbook, which frustrates me on several fronts and I will save for another post.  But, it's just there are so many that it is making my head spin.

At PhD U, I have two classes and an independent study. One class has a lot of reading. The other has a lot of writing. The independent study is based on my research work with my advisor. We can't do anything until the amended IRB is approved to include me, so I have a little bit of a reprieve, But once it is approved, things are going to happen quickly. We have a conference in March and need to get our data collected and analyzed. But, it's still a lot, and my brain is just trying to catch up. It's just so much stuff to think about.

This morning. I seriously considered taking the day off. Not going to class at PhD U and just taking the day to regroup. But, I have a group project meeting that needs to happen today, so that's out. I am thinking that I spend some time this morning trying to map out a plan before I have to go to campus. Then tomorrow I will take the morning off and regroup a little more.

I know I will get it together. I just need a plan. Being disconnected is just no way to go through life.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

On your mark, get set, GO!

The spring semester is in full swing at PhD U and HBCU.

My workload for the PhD is going to be intense. Two courses, an independent study with my advisor (I need to come up with a name for her), and preparing for two conferences with my advisor. Course #1 does not have a lot of deliverables, but a ton of reading. Course #2 has a ton of deliverables and a lot of reading. Advisor and I will be meeting next week to devise a plan for my independent study, which is based on the prep work for our conferences and subsequent paper. At minimum, I want to come up with a way to combine the work in the two courses. One is a topic concentration course and the other is Qualitative Methods II. I think I can make that happen. The independent study is in the wheelhouse of the Topic Concentration course, and my advisor and I will be completing a qualitative study. But, I feel that this may be pushing the envelope too far.

As for HBCU, I am back to teaching the course online for this semester. That is actually a good thing. It save me time, as I do not have to go anywhere. However, I did revamp the course, with fewer deliverables. I have 32 students in the class. That is just too many for any course. I don't want to spend the bulk of my time in grading jail.

I made a promise to myself last week that I wasn't going to make more work for myself, hence the attempt to kill as many birds as possible with the same stone. However, I find myself thinking about cool stuff I could research for my courses or a interesting topic or assessment for my students. I caught myself this morning thinking about an assignment that would be relevant and authentic for my students, but such activity would result in a good amount of prep work and grading. And the students would enjoy...

Stop! Just stop!

I will jot down that idea and set it aside for another semester. I cannot make any more work for myself this semester. I do not want to be burned out or worse, have a flare. I am working out my plan for the semester. Deadlines and commitments..what to leave in, what to leave out.

Time to start running against the wind. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Tracing Time

(Turn and face the strange)
Pretty soon now you're gonna get older
Time may change me
But I can't trace time
I said that time may change me
But I can't trace time.

Changes by David Bowie 

Yesterday was my 48th birthday. I am trying to figure out where all that time went. I mean, how did I get to be 48 years old? 

I am trying wrap my mind around the fact that I am knocking on the door of 50. I was ready for my forties. I had no fears about it. For me, my forties was all about embracing the woman that I have become, particularly in the latter part of my forties. I have reconciled some of my insecutites and continue to battle some that will just not die. But 50 is kind of scaring me a little. Husband will be 50 this October. He is dreading it. 

People say that I don't "look" like a 48 year old woman. Yesterday, I had fun playing "Guess my age" with strangers. No one came close. The guesses ranged between 30 and 35. In fact, I got a discount on my coffee because the guy guessed 30. I don't know what 48 is supposed to feel like either. Everyone within my age group talks about having more aches and pains. I experienced aches and pains since I was 32, but that was because of the RA. Otherwise, I have not noticed any new aches and pains. To be honest, I don't know if they would be any different than RA pain. Oh, I have noticed some changes with my lady parts, but I won't go there. 

In all honestly, even with the RA, I am in the best physical and mental shape of my life. Losing the weight and getting exercise has helped. I take good care of my body, especially my skin. Working on the PhD is keeping me mentally sharp, but even if I was still practicing law, I would find a way to keep my brain sharp and smart. Although, I did have a bit of a memory lapse when Husband was talking about the time we saw Bad Company back in the late 1990's. I honestly have no recollection of it. I texted one of my girlfriends who went to the show with us. She remembers it. No, I wasn't drunk or high. I honestly do not remember it! 

Maybe Bowie was right.  

Monday, January 4, 2016

Back to Reality

After some warm temperatures in Elsewhere (almost 80 degrees) during the month of December, January brings more seasonable temperatures in the upper 30's and low 40's. I shouldn't complain since that is probably a heat wave for some folks, especially for my peeps back in Lake Effect Snow Central and my family in Redneckville. But for me, it's cold. This period is relatively short in Elsewhere. In a typical winter, signs of spring start to show up around the end of February. Although with the warmer than usually December, I am wondering if we will be paying for it later.

I worry about the RA in the cold weather. Cold weather is RA's mortal enemy. The joints are not happy at all, as the begin to swell and ache. I often worry about a flare. I can work through a minor flare with rest and OTC meds. But a major flare can result in my being down a a few days or a week,  and can result in using Prednisone to help me through it.

Despite my concerns, Junior and I did our walk outside. Even with the sun shining, it was cold. I had on layers to keep warm. Junior was not phased too much by the chill in the air. German Shepherds are double coated, so he has his own insulated layer. After one mile, I looks at Junior and said "Sorry buddy, but Mom has had enough". Junior was fine with this, as usually a mile is enough to satisfy his walkies fix. I was quite happy to return home. I can feel minor aches in my fingers, knees, and other joints.

They are calling for a little warmer weather later in the week. Hopefully, my joints will be a little happier. Tomorrow; however, I will have to explain to Junior that Mommy cannot go for walkies when it is 30 degrees outside. Daddy will have be on walkies duty!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

2016 = Commitment

I don't do resolutions. I prefer to use themes for how I want to live my life in the new year. This year's theme is Commitment. For me, commitment means choosing to do only those things that bring me happiness. Commitment also mean recommitting to the things that I am already doing that make me happy.

What is making me happy is my commitment to fitness by running, walking, and doing yoga. It has helped me keep the weight off (almost two years). It has helped keep the RA in remission. It has helped me keep my mental health demons away. It has been a great stress reliever.  Husband has recommitted to running, and we run together on Sunday's with Junior. It's a great way for us to stay connected while staying active and healthy. 

Another commitment that makes me happy is that once a month, I take a day off from the PhD stuff, teaching, and exercise to do something for me. It usually involves getting my hair done, going to a spa, or going shopping. It's my day to cut loose and just focus on myself. I did this last semester and I found it really helped me recharge my batteries. Once the syllabi for my courses are posted, I will schedule the time off. It really give e something to look forward to, especially when I need the break. 

I am continuing my quest to get rid of anything that is a nuisance. Last year, I organized the entire house, which includes cutting back on how my clutter we have. We now have a good system for keeping things in order. Husband and I made a commitment to cook at home more and eat less crap. I make a big meal on Sunday, which usually lasts until Tuesday. We don't get home until 8 pm on Mondays and Tuesdays, so having the leftovers makes it easier for dinner. I've also stocked the pantry with stuff to make quick and easy meals for the rest of the week. Thursday's are our night out for dinner, which is nice because it's our time to just relax. Plus, it's not as crowded at most places! 

I am also recommitting to backing off of FB. I'm already growing tired of the crap there. 

For new commitments, I want to do more reading for pure pleasure. I read so much highly intellectual and intense stuff for the PhD, that I mess just reading because I want to read. I don't know how I am going to fit it into my already heavy reading load, but I am going to try. 

I'm not sure what new commitments I will be making this year. As long as it brings me happiness, it's all good.