The word “Remisson” usually inspires good thoughts, good feelings, and hope. On the other hand, the word “Relapse” often carries with it fear and worry. I've just gotten hit with a relapse, and I'm already fighting back.

If you have a chronic health condition, there are two very important “R” words.  The word “Remisson” usually inspires good thoughts, good feelings, and hope.  On the other hand, the word “Relapse” often carries with it fear, worry, and despair.  I have enjoyed my remission over this past year more than I can express.

 When I had my first flare and was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, I couldn’t pronounce the word “arthritis” very well.  My little tube-scarred six-year-old ears seemed to hear an extra vowel somewhere in the middle, so I pronounced it something like “arthuritis.”  My older sister has always affectionately referred to my condition as “Arthur.”  When it’s stormy, she asks me if Arthur is visiting.

After just over a year of being banished, Arthur is back.  The fear of having a relapse has started to fade, but I’m finding that the limiting and unpredictable nature of the disease itself provides very little relief in the worry department. 

How did this happen?  What do I do now?  I try to stay focused on these two questions because all the others are pretty fearful and powerless, while these two promote learning, responsibility, and some sense of control.

 This isn’t my first relapse, but it is the first one I’ve had since making the big changes to my diet and lifestyle that prompted this blog, so it feels reallly disappointing (among other things).  So how did this relapse happen?  I’ve got a few ideas.  Besides diet and keeping my digestive system in great shape, getting enough sleep and minimizing stress are key to maintaining remission for me.  

A couple months ago Brad and I decided to quit our day jobs, sell almost everything we own, move to Costa Rica as the first stop in many travels to come, and work full time on this blog and several other projects and businesses we had been doing on the side.  One of or main goals in doing this was to reduce my stress from my day job (I’m a Certified Public Accountant, and being in a deadline-driven career just wasn’t jiving with maintaining my health).  Unfortunately the process of getting here to Costa Rica was fraught with stress (good stress, but stress nonetheless) and very little sleep.  I didn’t put make getting the sleep I need a high enough priority, and I did not take time to do things that would have helped reduce my stress.  I let myself get so caught up in the frenzy of getting things ready for us to come down here that I let some critical aspects of caring for my health slide.    

As November 9th drew closer (the day we left) and as I became more and more sleep deprived and stressed, I started presenting warning symptoms.  Morning stiffness and pain that took longer and longer to dissipate, and late nights where I lost all ability to get ready for bed (get clothes off, brush teeth, etc).  I knew a lot of stress would be alleviated once we got here, and I thought I would be able to get more sleep once we got here, too.  I was trying to beat the clock.  I didn’t make it.

As we were up packing late November 8th and into the early morning of November 9th, the final stroke fell.  My wrists popped out with the same lumps that made my rheumatologist put me on Enbrel (major immunosuppressant) and methotrexate (chemo drug) a couple years ago.  Dang it.  Sitting still on a plane for several hours at a time the next day was supercalifragilisticexpialiD’ohcious (it doesn’t make much sense, but it often hurts most to keep your joints still when you have arthritis).

So, what to do about it?  We’ve been in Costa Rica for almost three weeks now, and we’re just settling in.  Even though the first week or so felt like I was in go,go,go mode, I was able to do several things in an effort to combat Arthur: 

  • I upped my daily intake of probiotics in an effort to prevent any “leaky gut” issues from going on (this has been a key cause of inflammation for me in the past);
  • I’ve had essentially no sugar at all except from eating fruit (sugar is bad for a lot of things, but especially for joints);
  • I’m trying to drink as much water as I can;
  • This last week I’ve gotten out walking quite a bit (even if there is an occasional gimp), and I even went to two water aerobics classes (Brad went with me, I think mostly out of support, but maybe also out of a little curiosity? 🙂 

There are aspects of being in Costa Rica that make it easier to address this relapse, and there are other aspects of being here that make it a little more difficult.  I’m taking advantage of everything I can here, and I’m hopeful I can get this put down and find a remission again soon.  For now, I’m starting to get good at water aerobics.

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