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.