My Family is Weirder Than Your Family

09.7.14

My Mom and Doc are in New York City for her BFFs from Kindergarten’s 50th anniversary surprise party. This means that Mom and her BFF have been friends for approximately 900 years, give or take a few.

In any event, My Mom’s been texting and emailing pictures of her trip as she goes.

First they had a snafu with the packing.

wire hair terrier suitcase

Then they arrived in the city, fortunately without the dog in the suitcase. I received an email with the subject line “NY after dark” and this photo was the only content.

new york city garbage

My aunt was copied too and she replied with her view at twilight, which is actually quite lovely.

maine at twilight

My cousin hijacked it all demanding that we all fight cancer.

fight cancer

And then we all chatted about how buying pepper spray is way more effective than a breast self exam.

Mom is super excited that Russ and Daughters is expanding

Russ and Daughters

But really? Ugh, pickled herring and smoked trout have got to be root causes of the diaspora. That place is 90% disgusting with a little lox thrown in to placate people like me.

So basically they’re just like every other retired Jewish couple from LA. One of which loves to visit New York for no good reason and the other to revisit her childhood which seldom went past 18th street. Right up until this point we’re a family like yours. We visit old friends, notice trash, dote on our animals, laugh at pinkwashing and eat food that isn’t very good but brings back memories.

Then I get this picture. There’s no explanation. There’s nothing about Doc losing his mind. There’s no mention of a half a century working in hospitals. There’s no attempt at logic. There is just my Step Father getting acupuncture from a blindfolded man on the street.

And there I am left wondering. Did they trick me into thinking they are normal? Could this be normal? There’s a storefront so they can’t be the only patients, can they?

 

Do You Play Through the Pain?

01.31.14

I’ve had a lifetime of joyful physical activity. From a childhood on the beach with hours spent in the ocean, on bikes, in the sand playing soccer and volleyball or hiking in the cliffs, there was never a day we kids weren’t in motion. As a teen I learned to love running and as a college student I took up mountaineering and cycling, both on the road and on the trails. Early adulthood brought me back to running and it was only during the 2007 City of Angels Half Marathon that I thought to myself, “If I play tennis there’s a pretty good chance that I’ll win. If I keep doing these runs I’ll never win a thing.” And because I missed competing I took up tennis. In retrospect it’s also the first time I knew that something was wrong with my body. I felt fatigue and joint pain and intuitively knew there was a problem, a big problem and decided to ignore it.

I’m not a great tennis player. I’m not even very good. I’m a solid 3.5 club player and the only reason I’m a 3.5 and not a 3.0 is because when we get to the third set I’m not tired. I’m just starting. My body is built for distance. I’m happy running (now quite slowly) for a couple of hours. My lungs feel like they’re full of glass the first 20 minutes but sometime around 30 minutes in they feel full and sweet with air and near the end of the first hour I feel a surge of lightness and joy and that’s when I know I’m about to have fun.

When I exercise I stop thinking in words and that’s the most important benefit that exercise has given me. This brain shut off comes around the end of the first hour and it’s a joy unlike anything I’ve ever known. It’s higher than any drug and sweeter than any candy. You know the sound of a baby’s laugh? My body feels like that laughter has been bottled and injected into my veins for a full hour. It’s bliss. Golden bliss.

Except that a year ago my tennis racquet fell out of my hand. And I dropped a dinner plate because my hand couldn’t support it. And the acupuncture that I was having three days a week wasn’t taking the pain away and I’ve completely forgotten what it’s like to live in a body that doesn’t hurt. I don’t even miss the pain free feeling anymore because it’s so unfamiliar, so lost.

My elbow hurts. Most days it only hurts a bit. I’m still having acupuncture and doing the physical therapy that was prescribed to me a year ago. I haven’t required a pain pill and I’m using topical anti inflammatories only. I can pick up a plate and I even bowled right handed (though the score is really no better than when I use my not dominant left hand). I miss tennis and I’m ready to get back to it. Perhaps even with a small ache in my elbow.

I’m going to beg the doctor for a cortisone injection next week and live my life again. I can’t be a runner again. Yes, I can run about 3 miles straight and not ache the next day but if I run the fourth it’s impossible to get out of bed the following morning. For some reason the side to side, sprinting and bouncing of a tennis court hurt a lot less and quite often not at all.

When I was younger and wanted to run faster, jump higher or just look better I trained through the pain. But before rheumatoid arthritis the pain wasn’t debilitating. It was the sweet pain of muscle growth. This new pain is the pain of joints deteriorating and I have to decide if I want to be happy now or later. Part of me knows that getting back to tennis without being 100% healed will hurt me down the road, but the other part of me really needs to play. It’s the part that needs to compete and is bored silly with Pilates. I’m at war with my own immune system. Hopefully my rheumatologist can give me secret weapon next week.

I’m ThisClose to Becoming a Dirty Hippie

11.30.12

The Auto Show wore me out. I mostly forget that I have RA these days. I have this baseline amount of pain that’s really quite tolerable. It keeps me from doing stupid things like handstands but it’s not enough to remind me that holding this camera for six hours will hurt my wrists.

When I say “hurt” I don’t mean ache. I mean the kind of searing pain that makes you want to cry like a 3 year old. When I overuse my hands they go cold and then they go numb and the only sensation that pokes through the numbness is the burning pain that also serves to totally depress me.

When I was first diagnosed with RA that was the pain I was living with day and night. So even though it infuriates me that my body has betrayed me like this and the pain is back it also reminds me of how incredibly lucky I am to have a (mostly) well controlled disease. Yes, I’d like to be in a remission but the reality is that I may never get there. I’d like to arrest the disease and make sure it stays confined to my hands and feet.

In any event I’ve found that the most magnificent, albeit time consuming, way to control both the pain and inflammation is acupuncture. I don’t even believe in acupuncture. I’m pretty sure I show up for an hour, a crazy lady with perfect skin puts a couple dozen needles in me, I listen to Howard Stern (you know to get my qi flowing) and fall deeply asleep for an hour while the acupuncturist and her assistant sit around giggling about the stupid people with needles in their faces.

But even with that it helps. I’m typing today and I haven’t taken a narcotic in almost a year, since the time I discovered acupuncture for flares.

I’ve also started juicing.

If you smell a whiff of patchouli on me or hear me mention “recycled clothing” for the love of all things holy please do an intervention.