Galloping Grandma begins blogging at 70!

I was 70 this year and to celebrate, I decided to write a blog about travelling with my Rheumatoid Arthritis which was actually diagnosed in 2000, although looking back I probably had it much longer.

Every joint was feeling terrible, all aches and pains and entering that phase when you convince yourself that it is all psychosomatic and even my GP looked rather disappointed when his gout diagnosis proved negative! Me - who only drinks about a glass of wine a week with Gout?  Un-deterred, the GP took another armful of blood and tested me for everything. This brought about an instant diagnoses of RA - I was so relieved, I laughed out loud! Now at long last I had something solid to get hold of, to ‘Google’, to join NRAS, etc. etc. My smile was somewhat diminished by learning that it was incurable, but there were lots of new drugs to keep it in check. For those that are in the know, I am on Humira (anti-TNF) as well as methotrexate.

Stage one was to get a rheumatologist and my first one was a sweetie, but was too old. He retired after taking care of me for about 8 years and then there followed a sorry list of not so good ones. Eventually after a number of operations, such as a new hip, having my gall-bladder out, which proved to be unnecessary! They had done the gall-bladder op and failed to notice that I had RA – despite the fact that I always give each doctor I see a large sheet of paper with rheumatoid arthritis written in large capital letters on it! Although I did have a few small stones in my gall bladder, what was making me ill was something called costochondritis that can affect people with RA, so I then had to go back to hospital for another week and be massaged twice a day by a real hunky physio!!

Next I was given a cream by another private skin doctor for my skin cancer that made my entire face swell up and upon reading the accompanying literature, it said quite clearly ‘Do not give to RA patients’. And yes, she too had been given the letter stating I had RA! Where did the skin cancer come from I hear you ask – well not from the RA I can assure you. Anybody of my age will know that protective sun creams were not invented when we were children. You got a good dollop of olive oil plastered all over you and were sent out to play (and cook) in the sunshine!!

Next came the knee replacement – never go here if you don’t absolutely have to! Mine was done by a doctor who had never done one before (I didn’t find out that until afterwards) and over 2 painful years later I found out it had been put in crookedly. The pain was excruciating and if it hadn’t been for my excellent GP and my husband, I really think I might have died at that point. And how did I find out it was crooked? By first my left foot breaking followed by the right one! Having talked it over with my husband, after 18 months with a broken left foot, we decided to go to the top person for feet in Ireland and, at the same time, change my rheumatologist to the top one in Ireland too, both of whom were up in Dublin. What a good decision that was! As my foot had been broken for so long, it needed titanium plates putting in and, he told me the right one was on the verge of breaking too! So, I eventually got home after the first operation with both feet in walking boots to keep my stance as even as possible. I was so delighted not to have a broken left foot, that I promptly tripped over my booted feet and broke my left wrist and my right shoulder. It was hard not to be very, very depressed! 

The right foot broke on the second day of a trip to Greece to celebrate our 40th Wedding Anniversary! My surgeon had warned me that this would be worse than the left one, and he wasn’t joking. Not from a pain point of view, but this foot was plated and wired together and it meant I couldn’t put it on the ground at all for 3 months. My first prolonged wheelchair experience followed, of course, by a blood clot in the leg!  But in fact I was lucky. My eldest son is a joiner so he put in ramps all over the house and, as the oil industry that my husband had worked in suddenly bottomed out, he was at home to look after me and became my live-in cook/housekeeper! 

I had the operation on my right foot in March 2015 and I am just about better, with only swollen feet in the evenings now, but I am able to walk a little more each day.  I know I probably face a few more operations yet, but I refuse to give up and try to walk the dogs every day – except when it rains too much - this is beautiful south west Ireland after all!  You are probably wondering how on earth, if you have read my blog, how I have managed to travel so much but you will just have to keep reading my blog, to find, out as my adventures certainly haven’t stopped yet!