My Arthritis Diagnosis at 29

How I knew something was up and what brought me into my doctor office requesting she test me for Rheumatoid Arthritis, which didn’t come as much of a shock as I expected.

Quite often people ask me how I knew something was up when I suspected my health declining and what brought me into my family doctor office, requesting she test me for Rheumatoid Arthritis. I had heard the name before, I didn’t know the different types of Arthritis and I figured only old people got that right? I didn’t know I was about to be hit with the reality of an Autoimmune Disease and my life forever changed. I’d never even heard of a Rheumatologist either at that point. I was blind to what chronic illness was even though the warning signs had been there for years but I ignored them, as did my medical doctor.

It was February of 2015 I stepped into my Doctor office and told her to test me for Rheumatoid Arthritis. I had just celebrated my 29th Birthday by going to Seattle and Portland with my then boyfriend for a requested weekend off work, away from my just turned terrible two year old son. I remember wanting to let loose and have a few drinks while watching live black and death metal bands, forget about being a Mom and work for just a weekend. I remember my feet hurting and being so tired just standing there watching the live bands or trying to walk around the cities to sight see or do some shopping during the day. I remember pain getting in the way of me having the good time I wanted and needed.

I kept telling myself it’s time to loose the baby weight before I hit 30. I was never good at keeping goals and constantly felt guilty of that. I was confused because I didn’t understand the invisible wall that was forming inside me preventing me from doing the simplest of everyday tasks. I didn’t understand why I was so damn tired always. I had no idea what fatigue really was but I was feeling it. I thought maybe I didn’t eat healthy enough, the wrong foods, too much gluten, carbs or sugar, I didn’t exercise enough, maybe it was the few beer I had on the weekend or coffee is making me too fatigued and dehydrated. I figured I was just an over worked mother, stressed out and tired. I figured I could improve my health but it’s ok, I was still pretty young. Every time I did focus on eating really healthy and being more active, I felt slightly better, but I couldn’t keep it up.

I understood why I was in pain a lot of the time. I was an esthetician for at that point 9 years. I excelled at services which involved a lot of hand movement and my neck or back in awkward positions, I knew pain in those areas, I was treated for back pain a number of times. I knew bad posture from all the pedicures and waxing I performed over the years or carrying my heavy son, my body felt broken down. My hands especially hurt from having to do so many massages. For years I was told it was just Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from health care professionals. For years no one did any tests but ask me what I did for work and that my hands and wrists hurt, felt stiff. I was just told to wear wrist braces at night and ice or heat it when it bothered me. I tried these wrist braces but found them so uncomfortable, I complained of it feeling like my hands or wrists swelling in them. Rings or bracelets were uncomfortable to wear.

I didn’t have any noticeable swelling in my joints. Just pain, pain that wouldn’t go away and was slowly intensifying. I noticed I couldn’t wear shoes that were once fine, I figured my feet changed too much during pregnancy, I really swelled during pregnancy. I was on watch for Preeclampsia during my third trimester of pregnancy. When I was off work for just over a year with my son I noticed the carpal tunnel never really got better, in fact got worse. When I returned to work after he was born I tried to stress to jobs that massage was difficult for me but getting out of massage when you are an esthetician seemed next to impossible. I tried notes from doctors, tried telling bosses I have carpal tunnel. I couldn’t get away from having to do massage and other services were too painful and difficult to perform now.

I knew it was time to make the call to see my Doctor again because it was only getting worse, I suspected something more than carpal tunnel by now and I was frustrated with what I was thinking a lack of treatment by my then doctor. I started to notice changes in myself, I was declining in my mood and depression was taking over me, I was explosive and angry. I figured that was stress or the untreated but diagnosed Postpatrum Depression I ignored even though I was the one who pulled myself into that doctor office knowing I had issues with it shortly after the birth of my son. I was always crying and moody. I remember sitting in the back room at my job crying because pain and fatigue were making me now a not very good esthetician. I was struggling daily to work plus take care of my young son. I made an appointment with my doctor quickly but had several weeks to wait until I could see her for answers as to what was happening to me. One of my coworkers suggested I get tested for Rheumatoid Arthritis because she knew someone around my age with it and then it clicked in me, my Aunt and Grandmother both had Arthritis.

I had a million excuses to not go into my doctor office mostly because I kept telling myself nothing could happen to me, everything would be alright and that fear of being wrong. If I didn’t go get checked out it’ll probably just go away if I take better care of myself or on it’s own. Sound familiar? I don’t suggest it. When I did see my doctor she suspected at first Fibromyalgia, which I knew of after once having a client who was open to me about her time with it. I remember her telling me it made her body always hurt and it had no cure. My heart sank. She suspected maybe not Rheumatoid Arthritis because I wasn’t showing any signs of joint swelling and ranked high on theTender Points test commonly used to test for Fibromyaglia. She referred me to a Rheumatologist while sending me to do the blood test for Rheumatoid Arthritis. At this point I was a little angry because for so long I was never tested properly for my pain. You really are your best health care advocate sometimes…

I attempted to still work for about a week after. I knew my body needed a rest and the pain was at this point too much so I went on medical leave until I spoke with my Rheumatologist. About a month and a half after leaving work I met my Rheumatologist who confirmed my diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Part of me wasn’t surprised. I knew something was up. What I really wasn’t surprised for was how much even I misunderstood this disease for the first few years of living with it.

In the late summer of 2016 I started my first biologic Humira to treat my RA paired with anti-depressant Effexor I was suddenly in a lethargic state for several weeks. During this time the pain in my back intensified to an almost unbearable point. I was constantly asking my Rheumatologist why my back hurt so much but was told the spine is not effected by RA and to see my GP about this. At this point I really didn’t want to return to my GP so I found myself a new one, a much closer one to home and he conducted xrays on my neck where we discovered the back pain is a result of Osteoarthritis. My second common form of Arthritis.

Arthritis can occur at any age, including children. No one is ever too young for it. Please get tested if you suspect any of the symptoms. Better safe than sorry.

Published by Chronic Eileen

Rheumatoid arthritis advocate, writer and speaker.