MAD – Martin’s Arthritis Diary

“He couldn’t fight his way out of a paper bag”  was a once relatively common phrase in English used to describe an individual incapable of even the simplest of tasks, this term now fades into quaint obscurity as neither penny chews nor fruit and vegetables are crammed into little brown paper bags by ageing corner shop keepers sporting matching brown overalls.The phrase does however describe rather perfectly my current state and general ineptness at achieving  anything remotely useful at all of late. 

This state of affairs has come to pass because of my arthritis (of the rheumatoid variety) which now courses its way through my body relentlessly along with accompanying pain in most of my joints each and every day 24/7.  It’s a bastard let me tell you.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining, (what’s the point) nor am I seeking sympathy ( I hate it when people are sympathetic ) but its more about the day to day actualities of R.A. & the thought processes that go along with the whole thing, particularly now in the time of Covid.

Beyond the pain of R.A. there is mirth, ridiculous stuff happens, absurdities abound and at times the whole thing is just one huge joke, and so I am doing my best to laugh at it. It occurs to me having recently joined an RA support group that all anyone talks about is how crap the whole thing is, now whilst this is most definitely the case what I’d really like is a little light & perhaps even a bit of hope that I am not ultimately doomed to suffer. And yet each post on the website talks of despair and resignation. Well stuff that.

I was first diagnosed with R.A. as I approached 50, some seven years ago. At that point in my life everything seemed to go tits up at just about the same time. I was in a lot of pain in my joints & headed to the Docs who sent me for tests. Called back in for the results I was diagnosed with R.A. – pills were duly prescribed and an appointment made for the specialist. The Doc also said I had diabetes and wanted to refer me to a heart specialist as my blood pressure was far too high, she felt it needed further investigation – just to be safe. The heart specialist diagnosed an irregular heartbeat. He said that I’d probably had it for years & he didn’t propose to take any medical procedures, just meds. At about the same time my marriage ended, my wife it transpired had been shagging someone who I thought of as a family friend, for years it turned out. Now this upset me, more than I can say and call me a Neanderthal but the only thing that I really wanted to do was punch him on the nose, but my arthritis meant I couldn’t even make a fist. That hurt, I couldn’t even be a caveman.

The shock of all the medical issues all coming together led me to change. The break up of the marriage likewise, I had been obese, but I lost my appetite and found myself eating only out of necessity, within a few months the diabetes diagnosis no longer applied, the pounds tumbled off me – the weight loss had cured it. 

The meds for the RA tamped everything down and the pain receded, I got divorced and we sold the house, the settlement left me to pay of all our debts and with half of the equity we had in the house ( unfortunately not such a lot ). Anyway within 48 hours of the house money being in my bank account I was on a plane to India. The only thing that made sense to me was getting as far away from my ex as possible & 8000 km’s seemed like a bloody good start. Out of sight out of mind.

Over the next six years I travelled around India & the surrounding countries, learned to dive in Egypt, cycled across France & Spain, took up Yoga, spent my summers in Greece or Spain, working on an Italian hillside vegetable patch and just generally living the life of Riley. I had no medical treatment but simply bought the same meds I’d been prescribed by the Rheumatologist ( easy to do over chemists counters everywhere I’ve been ) In time I totally forgot about the RA & the pills did the trick, helped by lovely ladies I met on several continents along the way, and I spent all my time being a ‘Silver Fox’.

Last year The RA began to come back with a vengeance, at the time I was in the Canary Islands, trying to avoid Covid and be in the sun ( my bones like the sun ). Week by week my condition deteriorated & finally in October I decided I had to return to the UK and get myself to the NHS. 

Now in February four months after arriving back I am still trying to get an appointment with the specialist, I’ve a date for May, I’ve had half a dozen appointments one successful the rest cancelled, shifted to online and then ultimately didn’t take place, meanwhile referred to another specialist for a foot operation I’m being scheduled  for surgery, the surgeon has described the process with glee as ‘turning your foot into a plate of kebabs’.  How enthralling!

I am on a long and winding road ahead me thinks. 

Meanwhile the money I had in the bank has run out, so just to summarise: I’m broke, more or less disabled for now, struggling to get medical help with Covid all aroundand debilitated by the RA. But then things can always be worse, can’t they?

I’ve decided to write about my experience from here on in with RA, warts and all as you might say,  recounting the funny side & the absurdities, if you’d like to follow my journey then please do.

I’m going to start by fighting my way out of that brown paper bag. Wish me luck. 

This photo downloaded from the WEB is close to one the Foot surgeon used as a visual guide for me on the work he proposes doing on my right foot. He explained that my foot was actually in a worse condition than his previous patient. I caught a glimpse of the patients notes, she’s 87 years old. At fifty-seven I’m in a worse state than an 87 year old, that’s just great.


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