Step Away From My Voodoo Doll

“Can whomever has my voodoo doll please give it a rest.”

Someone posted this on the online feed of my RA support group today. Every day it’s a different meme from a different person, taking about how life is hard, how the pain is hard. These are the days of our lives…with Rheumatoid Arthritis.

My problem recently is that it’s not just the arthritis that is hard. Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease, which means my immune system is weak. Every day, in addition to my joints flaring with inflammation, my body attacks itself. An older man can pass me by coughing and not cover his mouth, and while he may just have a cold, in my body that cold will turn into pneumonia. Germs aren’t my only issue either. My medicines make me weak, exhausted, nauseated, and worst of all susceptible to a myriad of other illnesses.

Last month I developed Bursitis, an infection of the Achilles tendon, in my left heel. It put me in a walking cast for six weeks. A week before that I sprained my right ankle while moving house. Two weeks ago I had new X-Ray’s done to find stress fractures in both feet. Then last week I ended up in the emergency room. (To be clear, the emergency room is basically the last place on earth I ever want to be. I associate it with severe pain, anxiety, and fear.)

One of my biggest annoyances with RA is that I never know if a new illness or pain is associated with my disease or just an every day common body ailment. For the last week I’d been experiencing strange side pain. Because it wasn’t near a joint however, I figured I’d probably pulled a muscle or tweaked a nerve. By Wednesday night I  was in a lot of pain, clutching my side as I rolled into bed, trying to find a comfortable position to lay in. Finally with the right amount of pillow to aspirin ratio I fell asleep.

Only to wake at midnight gasping for air, each intake of breath sending stabbing pain shooting down my side. With the little energy I had I dressed, packed a small bag, and hobbled down the hall to wakeup my room mate for a ride to the ER.

Luckily we seemed to have hit the ER on a relatively slow evening and I had a bed within an hour, and the testing began. Blood tests, EKG, chest X-Ray, CT scan, and 8mg of useless Dilaudid later… And the doctor finally came in with some results. This is where my ER experience changed for the worst. See, I’m very familiar with going to the hospital for my pain. I’m used to the scans and x-rays and blood tests. I’m also used to the doctor coming in saying something along the lines of “Well, we did all the usual tests but we can’t find anything wrong…” That is how these visits always go. Always.

“Well your X-Ray came out clean, and nothing showed up in your abdomen on the CT scan, but…”

I’m sorry, what? Did he just say “but”??

Turns out I have a compression fracture in my spine. My SPINE. Well, Fuck.

Whoever has my voodoo doll clearly is rooting for the “W” word, because that word is looming closer and closer. The endless colds, the exhaustion, the non-stop arthritic pain…these things I can handle. I have to. They have become a part of me. My feet being broken, well yeah that sucks, but I’ll rock that cast as long as I need to. I can be Sneezy the six foot dwarf when the back to back colds strike. If I must I will sleep the day away to handle the exhaustion. But my spine… what do you do when your body is falling apart around you, and the piece that is holding it altogether starts to breakdown too?

Sure there’s surgery, there’s more medications, I’ll see some more doctors who will talk at me not to me. I will listen as they promise to fix me with just a few more pills each day, and maybe a metal rod implanted in my flesh. I will stand there and listen as they poke and prod me and treat me as less than human, and more like their next publication in a medical journal. I’ll do it all. Because what choice do I have otherwise?

But to the person out there that has my voodoo doll… Will you just give it a rest already?

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