Saturday, September 08, 2007

On A Personal Note

Life has been interesting, to say the least. It started back at the end of June when we arranged to have our house painted for the first time in too many years. It fell to me to trim back all the trees and bushes near the house (you should understand that we live in the middle of the city but have let things grow pretty wild over much of the property and have 40 mature trees in our back garden alone).

Needless to say then, said trimming was fairly strenuous and between rather dull loppers and a pruning saw, I did the job over a couple of days and completely filled a large stock trailer twice over, hauled the loads to the dump and emptied them.

A couple of weeks later I started to get some pain in my left shoulder and at the time didn't related it back to the tree trimming. Another week or so and the painters were here and needed one more bush trimmed and I grabbed the loppers, went to lop, and yelled out - I thought I knew why my shoulder was sore.

As by now the pain was significant and it was waking me in the night, sometimes several times, I headed off to the doctor who diagnosed infraspinatus tendonitis and recommended physiotherapy (which being a good patient, I didn't get round to doing).

All this time, I was playing tennis almost daily and walking the dog at least a mile and a half daily, even being pleasantly surprised that I could hoof it up a steep hill without collapsing or getting angina (I'm 57 and sig. overweight).

Advance another week or so and one Wednesday I played a little warm up singles with my friend, then went to the indoor facility to play my usual Wednesday doubles, and for the first time ever we played singles for the first hour - we had a great time, but by the end I was fairly tired.

I came home to a very sad dog, no one had taken him for a walk. We went for a walk, I almost didn't make it back. Now this was not a combination I hadn't done before but I figured that second set of singles is what did me in, so didn't think too much of it at the time.

Over the next week though a few more walks were brought almost to a halt with a combination of weakness and general soreness - this was getting a little bit odd, not to say worrying. Another week and it didn't take tennis or walks to make me sore, I was getting sore all over and specifically in my hands, now both shoulders and hips. One last rather pathetic tennis game and I had to tell the boys to find a replacement, I couldn't run for the ball.

Off to the doctor a second time and we discuss rheumatoid arthritis but hope it's just something post viral. My theory that it was just a fat old guy pretending to be young didn't seem to have wings.

Lab work was positive - at least I wasn't being a wimp, but on the other hand, now I had something and it was looking suspiciiously like rheumatoid arthritis. One Sunday the symptoms were quite minimal and I had a good walk at a reasonably brisk pace and felt even better the next day and entertained the possibility that I might be able to return to tennis within days. The next day was bad again and over the last two weeks things have got worse on almost a daily basis. A specialist classmate confirmed the diagnosis and started me on Plaquenil (hydroxychloroquine).

By Thursday I was bad enough I was worried about my job and wrote a note to the specialist outlining the change in my symptoms. She called me back yesterday by which time I could barely walk and recommended a little cortisone by mouth and to start methotrexate.

This latter is a little bit creapy as it's an anticancer drug, big guns, with potentially dangerous side effects, but possibly quite helpful and usually reasonably safe. Last night I saw my family doctor who was very supportive but who felt that the little bit of cortisone was way too little when my job, sanity, and ability to move were on the line. Shortly before going to see him, the phone had rung, and for the first time, I was completely unable to get off the sofa, my wife had to put the phone down, come and haul me off. My doctor put me on 5X as much prednisone, suggesting a large dose for a short period of time to get me going.

Twelve hours after taking the first dose, I was 50% better. It didn't take 3 attemts to get out of bed, I could reach the floor, I could dry myself after the shower - it was a miracle. By 18 hours I felt 80% better and went off for a mile and a half walk at normal pace, and this afternoon even slung my camera backpack on for a short photo excursion. I'm not perfect, my tendonitis in the shoulder still bothers me, but everything else is wonderfully, dramatically better. I don't know if it's going to last or if the methotrexate is really going to work, but these days there are even better drugs that can be used if it fails - there may be life after all.

It's been a couple of weeks since I could pick up my camera on the tripod, getting out this afternoon was very nice.

Oh, the plane, it was at The Museum Of The Regiments, about a mile from my house, here in Calgary, the plane was mounted by two black pillars reaching up from the ground at an angle to the exhaust ports of the jet, giving it a dramatic angle, just great for photographing. Didn't get a chance to read the plaque and identify the plane before the rain started.


Beau A.C. Harbin said...

Quite a dramatic time for you. I hope you are on the mend soon. My wife too methotrexate for many years to help treat here r. arthritis, and it worked wonders without any ill effects. It sounds scarier than it is. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

Unknown said...

I guess it's a guy thing to put up with some symptoms and not go to the doctor, and perhaps a doctor thing to ignore a doctor's advice :-D.
Glad to hear you're doing better.
Looking forward to your upcoming book.

Andy Ilachinski said...

I'm very sorry to hear about your difficult time; my best wishes for a speedy recovery. For what it's worth, given that your readers now know how hard a time of it you've had it lately, I can only be in *awe* of the amount of material you've still managed to post virtually every day. Your spirit is both vast and deep George! Please get well soon!

George Barr said...

Thank you all for your thoughts - another good day - two walks today!


Unknown said...

Here's hoping that you continue to improve, George. By the way, that airplane is a CF-5 "Freedom Fighter" licence-built by Bombardier from the Northrop F-5. One of the most beautiful military aircraft ever made in my opinion, and those two photographs show its beauty admirably.

George Barr said...


thanks for the I.D., and I agree, really is a sculpture, gorgeous plane.


Glennsp said...

Glad to hear you are on the mend.

When I developed all round excruciating joint pain and I was tested they discovered instead that I had Hepititus C and therefore the joint pain was my body attacking itself. Nice!