I feel like I am at a crossroads in regards to my health, nutrition, and exercise lately. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word crossroads as: a crucial point, especially where a decision must be made. I am not certain that my decisions are necessarily crucial but you get the point.
Over the past two months I have slowly been weaning off my prednisone which was at very high doses to begin with between the oral tablets I was taking and the IV infusions. I finally came off of it three days ago. I knew it was going to be difficult. Historically I come off prednisone for a while and then ultimately go back on it at varying doses because my symptoms return. However this time I am determined to stay off of it for as long as I can unless I am in a very bad or urgent situation such as literally not being able to walk or if I am having extreme difficulty breathing. The reason I feel so strongly about staying off the prednisone is because I am forty-one years old and I believe that my doctor and I need to try another course of treatment. The risk of long term side efefects is high. Not to mention the ones I have to live with when on the medication. It is a toss up most of the time as to what is worse: the disease or the treatment. At this point, it has become a quality of life issue.
But I am in a lot of pain. The joint pain that notoriously feels like someone is driving a chisel into my bones. It is not the worst pain I have ever had but it is pervasive and it is starting to affect my daily life again. I know that if I call my rheumatologist, she will immediately put me back on the prednisone and I just can't do that to myself again right now. Also, the adrenal gland gets shut off when you are on prednisone and they need time to work on their own again. While this rebalance is taking place, it is common to have symptoms like joint pain. I am hoping that this is all this pain issue is: a response to coming off the prednisone.
I am also at a crossroads with my exercise program. While I was on the prednisone, I was able to do a lot more than I can now. At this point, I cannot even swim without being in significant pain afterwards. And this upsets me. I have come to rely heavily on regular exercise to not only manage my weight but also my emotional well being. I am currently reevaluating the exercise program I have put in place to see how I can work it so that I can still exercise without paying such a heavy price afterwards. It is difficult though when I have made so much progress over the past two months in regards to my fitness level. All I want to do is keep going forward, not backwards.
The final issue to my diet. I have been working so hard on changing my lifestyle over the past six months and my dietary changes have been drastic. And now I am ticked off. Why? Because I have busted my butt for the past five to six months eliminating all gluten and dairy from my diet. I have drastically eliminated sugar as well. I did these things because it has been shown that gluten, dairy, and sugar can contribute to inflammation. I have sacrificed a lot to make this eating plan work for me and yet as I sit here typing, the joints in fingers are swollen and painful. I know I may be jumping the gun a bit because once my body chemistry evens out, maybe the pain will be better. But it is hard to not be discouraged when I had a lot of hope placed on my dietary changes making a huge difference in my illness. Not to say that it won't but time will have to tell on that issue.
So what do I do now? Do I give up my gluten and dairy free diet? Do I let myself start having sugary dessert more often? Do I just sit back and use my pain as an excuse to not exercise as often or even at all? Most importantly, do I go back to my medicine cabinet and give in to the pain; knowing that relief may just be as easy as a 10mg tablet of prednisone?
Here is what I am going to do instead. I am going to go to acupuncture more frequently. I will keep reading and learning about pain management techniques and use them as much as possible. I will eat even healthier than I already have been. I will use regular pain medicine when I need to give my body a break from the pain. And I will still exercise. I am not quite sure how but I am resourceful. I will figure it out.
The most important thing I will do is....
Not give in.
I will fight to be stronger than this current flare up of pain. I will not use my illness as an excuse to eat crap or be a couch potato twenty-four hours a day. However, I will also be kind and gentle to my body in whatever ways it need me to be. I will have faith that this too shall pass. One day and one hour at a time.
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