Where do you begin an ongoing story? Most times you would start at the beginning and I guess that’s as good as anyplace to start my story. My story starts as child of a blue collar family, in the heartland of America. A baby boomer, born to parents that had survived the Great Depression and World War II. Our greatest generation. My dad was a truck driver and my mother was a stay at home mom for the early years of my childhood. She was a seamstress and used to sew clothes for other people to bring in some extra money. That is where the story really begins.
Somewhere around the time she turned forty, my mother was diagnosed with RA, Rheumatoid Arthritis. It started with swollen, sore joints and it got worse from there. In those days treatment options were limited. She tried gold shots and found she was allergic when she broke out in a rash. The most effective treatment, at that time, was Methotrexate tablets. This was her best treatment until the biologic drug Remicade came along. The difference was night and day for her.
The one thing I remember was that, thru it all, she kept sewing. Even though her hands were painful and her fingers crooked. She continued to make beautiful things for me, my sister, her grandchildren, and herself. Not only did she sew but she also did needlepoint, cross-stitch, crochet, and knitting. And she did them all like a master.
Now fast forward a few years to the year I turned the big four-O. I had spent a warm, February weekend taking down Christmas lights outside. The next morning, I woke up with a terrible pain in the pinky finger on my left hand. It was so bad I couldn’t even straighten out the finger. That went on for a couple of days and then the same thing happened to the pinky on my right hand. Soon it was both wrists, then both elbows, and finally both shoulders. I decided I had to go see my primary doctor, who in turn referred me to a rheumatologist. After several tests, she then informed me that I had Rheumatoid Arthritis, the same disease that had afflicted my mother.
I have to admit that at the time, even though my mother had had it for years, I didn’t know much about RA. The doctor told me it was more prevalent in women than men. And when men had it, it appeared to be more aggressive. At any point, my life would never be the same.
I began treatment right away. A parade of different drugs, none having any real effect on my continuing pain and suffering, ensued. Then one day the doctor decided to try a new biologic drug, Enbrel. Within 24 hours I felt the best I had in a long time. It worked pretty well for about 10 years, but the immunosuppressive qualities of the drug were a pain to deal with. Any little scratch could blow up into a raging infection. Not fun by any stretch of the imagination.
I now go for a monthly IV infusion of a biologic drug named Orencia. Along with that I have a weekly injection of Methotrexate and three different types of pills I take daily. All of this as I’m in search of the ever-elusive clinical remission. I’m not there yet, but I always try to keep my fingers crossed. That is when they’re not swollen and inflamed.
About the same time, I was diagnosed with RA, I rediscovered a hobby that would become a passion in my life. Woodworking. How will my RA affect this passion? That’s where the story lies ahead. That’s why I dedicate this ongoing blog to my mother, Evelyn. She showed me that there is no reason to give up on your passion. You just might have to take it a little slower. So, join me as I go on this journey into my passion of trying to build square with crooked hands.