My knee has been really hurting. Do you think I could have RA? My whole body aches when I get out of bed in the morning. Could it be Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Over the past several years I’ve been asked questions like this by friends. After some probing questions on my part and a little RA 101, I usually reassure them by saying the following: trust me, if you have RA you will know it!
Now, in truth, I probably missed some warning signs, and continued to dismiss them for quite some time. My family doctor had given me the name of a rheumatologist a year before I first saw him. But the real problem with autoimmune illnesses like Rheumatoid Arthritis is that there isn’t a list of early warning signs per se. Most people get diagnosed at the point where it is wreaking havoc on their joints, their muscles and their lives.
I had expressed concerns to my doctor about muscle aches and possible joint pain – especially upon waking – and crushing fatigue. She wanted an evaluation by a rheumatologist which was spot on, but I was sick to death of doctors and health problems at that point. I was coming off of almost a year of dealing with thyroid cancer.
My symptoms were confusing to me because as a part of treatment for papillary thyroid cancer I had to go completely hypothyroid. That is the protocol before being treated with Radioactive Iodine which is intended to kill off any remaining cancer cells that weren’t removed during the thyroidectomy and the surgical removal of the surrounding lymph nodes. Being tired and achy, lacking energy and the muscle fatigue, pain and weakness I was experiencing was all very similar to how I felt in the many months it took to pull out of that hypothyroid state and get the right daily dose of levothyroxine (synthetic thyroid hormone) figured out. I also had trouble after surgery with my calcium and vitamin D levels. Again, some of the symptoms all overlap with hypothyroidism and rheumatoid arthritis. Was the tingling in my hands and feet from low calcium or something else? This was the constant questioning, assessing and worrying I was doing.
Even with waking up repeatedly being unable to move my right arm, I still resisted. I was stuck in fear, frustration, anxiety and denial. Putting off getting an evaluation with a rheumatologist was foolish. And when we don’t listen to our body and allow illness to continue to take hold, eventually the message will be so loud you can no longer realistically ignore it. Which is why I have told people if you have RA you will know. It won’t come and go – it will come and stay and continue to escalate. Read the rest of this entry