02/08/2014 The over endearment of those who care

Of the people you rush to tell about your life events (be it good or bad), family and friends are usually quite high up the list, if not among the first. For me, it was my colleagues at work that found out first about my diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis as I had to eat into the company’s time in order to attend my rheumatology appointment. So when they heard what I had been diagnosed with, they were sympathetic and tried to cheer me up through out the day. Though fortunately, there was a lot of work to help keep my mind off things. Even so, that didn’t stop the odd customer inquiring politely about why I was wearing a wrist support on my hand last Thursday. Rather than telling them that I had a steroid injection into my wrist in the morning and have been advised not to over exert it, I opted for the ‘grizzly bear wrestling’ story to deflect their questions. This worked surprisingly well at breaking the awkwardness of the situation where I didn’t quite feel comfortable with sharing the story of my life. Must use this excuse again sometime in the future.

Of all the people that took the news of hearing of my diagnosis to heart the most, it was none other than my mother. Can always rely on mum to be caring, but I can also rely on my mum to take things out of context and blow them up to biblical proportions. Seriously, I think mum was more shocked than I was about my diagnosis. Its not like she didn’t know I was going through my pains when I was growing up. The only difference now is that the pain has a name to it other than ‘annoying’. So, mum being her caring self, went online to do some research on my behalf and spoke to her friends and colleagues and various family members to get more insight into my condition. After all that, the conclusion that she can somehow be satisfied with is that I am either dying or at death’s door (to the extent that I may as well be a malnourished HIV patient that has contracted tuberculosis).

I suppose, being a health professional, I knew what I was expecting and understood with greater clarity what rheumatoid arthritis would mean. This had helped me accept the gravity of my situation faster, but also at the same time made me somewhat naive of the possible long term out comes. I know for certain that right now I am just about recovering from a recent flare up. The pain has mostly subsided and my joints appear to be stiffer than they were before the flare up. Just how much time would I have left before I lose practical functionality of my joints? Being young has also made one stubborn about the eventual complications that I may encounter as I get older. I think this is what mum is worried about the most. Worried about how I would look after myself in my older age and who would help look after me. To be honest, until just now, I hadn’t thought that far ahead with regards to my rheumatoid arthritis. I was naively still in fantasy land where I think I would be able to secure an adequate income stream to at least help support my late life. I understand that at one point I will be physically unable to do much. I keep thinking: until that time comes I am going to work really hard and make smart investments so that I won’t be left stranded. Not an invalid road to walk along, but definitely will need to put money where my mouth is.

My uncle wants me to move back to Hong Kong. One of my younger cousins over there was also diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. He decided to take the traditional Chinese  medicine route. It has worked for him so far which is great news! Though a life in Hong Kong is probably not one for me. Again, with my own personal skepticism of treatment that  lacks strong data and evidence, I would very much like to give most alternative therapy a miss. Yes, they may work, but not all will have a safety profile where the long term effects of those treatments are fully understood or even discovered. So longs as they don’t do any harm, I am open to the idea. Right now, first step is to focus on living healthily. Today mum, made me this lemon and ginger tea. From what I have read, there are certain biological chemicals in ginger that have known anti-inflammatory effects. I just wish mum added honey to that drink – sour is definitely not the flavour of the month. A common questions I find myself asking patients when they ask me which of two medicine I would recommend is: which one do you think would go down easier? All the health benefits will mean nothing if it doesn’t get into your body. Same applies to food. You can have the healthiest super food sitting in your fridge, but if it tastes so foul that you spit it out (heck not even rats and flies would touch it), it is not benefiting anyone.