Welcome to the Wandering Drays!

Not all who wander are lost...

Welcome to my blog dedicated to my family and our crazy foreign service life. Never content with staying in one place, we are excited to share our journey. We've survived two unaccompanied tour (Baghdad 2010-2011 and Baghdad again in 2015-2016), multiple TDYs, and enjoyed a two-year family assignment in Cairo, Egypt. The fab hubby is currently learning Turkish for our next assignment...Istanbul, Turkey! We leave for Turkey sometime in summer 2017. I write about what I know. Which is mainly kids, tween drama, gross pets, dealing with lots of government info, our moving adventures, being a nurse, yoga, running, living on too-little sleep, and an addiction to coffee lattes. I hope you'll enjoy this glimpse into our lives.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Painful Diagnosis

Maybe two years ago, I started to notice my hands were achy and stiff whenever I'd wake in the middle of the night and in the early morning.  It would come and go, and I attributed it to sleeping in the same position all night.  Illogical, but it was my answer.  Looking back, I also remember my toes hurting, especially in the morning, but I figured that was just from running, or working long 12-hours shifts in the ER.  It was crazy at that time --- the fab hubby was in Baghdad and I was busy playing solo parent with a newborn and two older kiddos.  Really, I could go on and on about why I dismissed it; I've got tons of reasons why I could so easily ignore it.  But mostly, it was because I chose to ignore it, telling myself it was nothing.  It would go away.

And it did, at least sorta.  I didn't notice the middle of the night pain nearly as much, and once we arrived in Cairo, I focused on adjusting to a new country, a new job, a new life.  Really, it wasn't that painful and it was fairly easy to ignore.

Maybe around last May, my left pinkie finger specifically started to hurt.  The distal (furthest) knuckle became inflamed and reddened. It hurt so much just to bend at the joint.  At first, I figured I had injured it.  How? Not a clue, but I wasn't worried.  I was starting a training program for my marathon, and the pain went to the back burner of importance.

I wish I could say that it just went away, that the finger magically healed from whatever phantom accident I assumed I'd had.  But now, here I am six months later.  And that finger is permanently deformed.  The joint is bone on bone.

As for the rest of my hands and my feet?  The last three months or so have been terrible.  Every morning I wake up with stiff and achy hands.  Whereas the feet used to be the most painful, it is now my hands.  And my hands have had some really bad days.  Days where all the knuckles swelled and were so painful I could hardly open medication bottles at work.  I've struggled some days to open jars or to write or to type.

I wish I'd had the sense to stop and ask myself two years ago what the *bleep* was going on.   Maybe have gone to the doctor or at least mentioned my symptoms. I mean really.  I'm a nurse.  I know better.  If one of my friends had said "Hey, isn't this weird?" to me --- I so would have told them to go to the doctor to get it checked out.  But I dismissed myself.  

Heck, I wish I'd brought it up even six months ago when the pinkie finger started to look funky.  Because maybe we would have been able to stop the erosiveness of the joint.

So here I am.  Having had x-rays, tons of blood work, and a few follow-ups with the Health Unit.  Diagnosis?  Arthritis.  Probably rheumatoid arthritis.  While the blood work hasn't been conclusive, the symptoms and x-rays are all consistent with the diagnosis.  Now the challenge is to find the right treatment.  Everything I've read indicates that early and aggressive treatment is the key.  Why didn't I say something about how much it hurt long ago when the pain first started?  How much time have I wasted just by ignoring it?

I'm so angry with myself.  I don't know how I could ignore the symptoms for so long.  And truthfully, I've been in a funk for the past month or so.  I haven't been running.  Or eating well.  This diagnosis has me down.  My hands hurt all the time.  I feel vulnerable, exposed.  Suddenly, I feel years older.  I think about how much they hurt now, and wonder what life will be like 10, 20, 30 years from now.  

There isn't a happy ending to this blog entry.  How do you say "hey, I turned 37 last week and I got diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis" without making an angry face?  I can joke about it.  Pretend it doesn't matter.  Throw a "hey, that's life" out there.  But none of those reactions have worked.  Trust me; I've tried.

I even thought maybe I wouldn't blog about it.  Pretend it doesn't exist.  Or at least not announce it to the world through the blog or Facebook.  But I think I've probably spent too long acting like it wasn't an issue.

Because it is an issue, and right now it's always on my mind.  My hands hurt, all the time.  The mornings are worse.  Some days I have flair ups.  And I'll try to stay strong as I muddle through the diagnosis stage.  But the truth is, no matter how I look at it, I'm sad, I'm angry, and I'm depressed about it.


  1. Oh honey. I don't know what to say except: of course you ignored it. Don't be mad at yourself. It's just your mom response, rather than your nurse response. Totally normal to watch out for everyone else before you think of yourself. But now you know, and now you have to take care of YOU. Hugs your way as you work through this. I'll be thinking of you.

    1. Thank you Donna! I appreciate all the support. And I promise not to be too hard on myself. Sometimes it's hard, but you're right. It is a mom response...

  2. Man! I'm glad you decided to blog about it. I second Donna's comment with don't beat yourself up. Just take the time to take care of you now. I'll be thinking of you and keeping you in my prayers.

    1. Thank you! I appreciate the support and prayers!

  3. I am so very sorry. And yes, you need to be mad. And upset. Just do it. Be angry, and get through this, because you have to, and you will, and you'll get past it and deal. Because, well, you will, even though your life has changed. And it actually has, in this one way, even though you did NOT give it permission to do so. I'll say it if you don't want to - "It's UNFAIR!" - and we all know that's totally illogical, but I mean it, and I'm sorry anyway.

    I've dealt with wrecked knees, a herniated disc in my back, and an surprise emergency t-section, and as totally illogical as it may seem, it can still REALLY piss me off that the super-woman that I think I should be, in my own mind's eye, does not always beat the reality of my actual physical limitations. Forget logic, this is emotion - emotion trumps logic. It's more devious and persistent. Seriously, we should all know by now that we are not superhuman, right? And we do know it. Logically. But try telling that to the heart. The part that would, by sheer will, magically do away with all bad things as mere inconveniences... that part doesn't do logic.

    I'm sure that you know that little voice in the back of your head that says you 'should have done this' or 'could have done that'? Yea. That one. It gets quite loud at times like this. I think that's the voice of some former-life cave-lady ancestor haunting the present. Rugged and tough. Birthing babies whilst digging roots and fighting saber tooth tigers. She's always telling me how she 'would have done things better' than I did. She would be smarter and stronger and plan in advance. She's a real bitch, and I truly hate her sometimes, but there's no getting rid of her. I think that most women have this inner barbarian smacking them around with woulda's and shoulda's - she WILL have her say, and she's really tough.

    No. I do not actually have issues with multiple personalities(!), but at some point in my past, I realized that the 'I should haves' were just not ever going to go away. No matter how illogical my holding on to them was/is. When I get into such a slump, my thinking of this perfect barbarian lady, who doesn't exist but tries to convince me otherwise, helps me regain a little perspective. Thinking of her, separately, reminds me that I'm the real person, with good traits and bad faults. That this impossible super-woman only exists in my brain. Her shoulda's and woulda's can get very loud and painful at times, and there's actually some good in that. Her quest for perfection is no doubt a source of my strengths somehow too (but don't tell her I said that) ...but... we don't live in her state of impossible perfection. We live in a reality where we make mistakes, where we aren't immortal and perfect. So, let your inner primitive superwoman scream at you a bit for not being as perfect as she is, because she will voice her disappointment anyway. Might as well let her get it out of her system. Then you can send her back to her cave to boil tubers or something, and you can get on with taking care of you. One day at a time.

    1. Oh, Connie! You are really amazing. I couldn't figure out how to word it when I was writing, but you sure have done it. I am angry - why can't I be tougher? Stronger? Able to power through it and move on? I think the word I like most right now is INDIGNANT. That's how I feel about this disease cramming my life. My family's life. I pick up my son and I cringe at the pain. Will he notice the grimace? Gotta power on. I open the jar of peanut butter to make my daughter a sandwich. Will she notice how painstakingly slow I am because it hurts so much to open it? Horrible. I want to smack myself in the face and say "COWBOY UP!" Indignant that it's getting the better of me. But maybe acknowledging it is the first step to saying hey! I need help with this. And I need to take care of myself. Thank you - for sharing your story and your support. We can't let the inner barbarians get us down! XO

  4. Getting old sucks. Physical limitations suck. Pain really sucks. I would have ignored all the symptoms too because life and motherhood is demanding, especially FS life when weakness never is/seems to be an option. As you process this new change and what it entails for you and your family, I am praying for you and for effective medical treatment. Meanwhile, do go easy on yourself. You will need all that energy to battle forward, not backward. One day at a time. Hugs.