The Road to Recovery

It’s been nearly three months since I’ve last shared an update about my health status, mostly because there’s not been a lot of new news to share. Or at least not a lot of good news.

In early August I started a new medication for rheumatoid arthritis, one that typically takes about three months to alleviate joint stiffness and pain. I was amazed at how good I felt within a few days of starting the new medication. I recall telling a niece, “Gosh, I haven’t felt this good since my early 30s. Nothing hurts anymore. Not my hip, my bad shoulder, or my hands. It’s amazing!”

Living with that level of denial is lovely during a year like 2020. What I failed to realize is my symptom relief was solely due to the fact that my rheumatologist also prescribed a low dose of prednisone for the first few months until the new meds kicked in. I’ve recently had to slowly taper off the prednisone, which has been rather awful.

I had no idea how much the prednisone was helping me until I had to quit taking it. And I was completely clueless about the prednisone withdrawal symptoms, including fatigue, lightheadedness, and body aches and pain. I’m now walking like a woman who’s been riding a mechanical bull the past 24 hours. Oh, and you should see me when I get up from a chair, get out of bed, or even roll over in bed. I look a bit dazed and confused as I deal with the perception that my head is lifting off my neck and spinning for a few moments.

What about the Bell’s Palsy, you ask? Well, I look normal. My smile is big and toothy once again, but I’ve still got some “issues”, including the loss of my involuntary blink. If I think “blink” I can blink my left eye, but it doesn’t blink on its own. I’m still using eye drops during the day and taping it shut after applying eye lubricant at night. I hate this routine, but my ophthalmologist insists this is the only way to ensure my cornea fully heals.

I typically see my ophthalmologist once a year; I’ve seen him five times since June and will see him again next month to hopefully—finally—get a new prescription. Have I mentioned I can’t see very well? I’ve needed a new prescription for months now, but he won’t write the prescription until my cornea fully heals. So, I struggle along with my old glasses and a few technology aids, like the Zoom feature in Outlook and Word. No, not Zoom as in how we all spend our days at work. I’m talking about the Zoom button that increases font size. I love the Zoom button so very much right now. And Zooming for work is great on those rare days when my hair cooperates, and left eye doesn’t get to twitchy from needing eye drops.

Oh! I do have good news to share about my Prickly Palate. I can finally sense all five tastes again. For months, the only taste I could perceive was sweet. Everything I ate or drank tasted like someone had added frosting to it. This was one of the worst issues I had to deal with the past six months for many reasons. It was easy for my husband either who accused me of trying to kill him earlier this year when I was adding hot chili peppers from our garden to everything I cooked in an attempt to overcome the cloying sweetness I perceived in everything I was making. Thankfully, I can now perceive salty, sour, bitter, and umami again. And thankfully, Scott survived his “Summer of Scoville” torture.

I know 2020 has been challenging for all of us as we adjust to “the new normal.” I’m thankful my new normal includes having my old normal smile. I’m also thankful for the healthcare I’ve received since mid-April. Moving forward, I’m not sure what my healthcare situation will be. I’m riddled with pre-existing conditions. What will I do if the Affordable Care Act is overturned by the Supreme Court? I’ll likely mentally fall apart for a few days, and then I’ll pick myself up, dust myself off, and head out on the road to recover health insurance coverage. Wish me luck!