When my back got better, but new symptoms began appearing, I began a round of seeing doctors that resulted in a trip to the Rheumatologist yesterday.
A few weeks ago I couldn't have told you what they did.
I sort of wish I still didn't know.
In the waiting room I filled out a form that asked what activities were a problem for me given my current condition. I listed:
- Household tasks (which I did not enumerate, but including basically everything for which you hold anything or lift anything or raise your arms at all)
- Holding a pen or pencil
- Holding a book (which explains why I'm not speeding through books)
- Typing (which I hope means you will forgive me if you're not seeing comments)
- Knitting (there's the heartbreak)
These are all the things to do with my fingers and wrists and shoulders, but I have similar issues of swelling and pain in my toes, ankles and knees. Walking is limited. Mornings are painful and slow. Sleep is not refreshing.
I have some kind of inflammatory arthritis. The doctor is still sorting out which one.
I came home with a prescription for prednisone.
I can't say this is the worst thing that could happen to a person, but I can say that after working so hard for almost the last year to lose weight, being limited and having the treatment be, at least in the short term, steroids, distresses me. But things are getting worse, not better, and I will do as I am told.
What grieves me is the loss of my idea of what I might feel like this summer. I pictured myself a little further ahead in the weight loss journey, and I pictured that body hiking to the tops of mountains. Now a walk to the drug store, a low-intensity walk, is about all I have in me. Fatigue and pain limit me.
This week's gospel lesson is one of the first I remember reading for myself, from my little Bethlehem Mother of Pearl covered New Testament, with its red-letter King James version:
And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? (Matthew 6:28-30, KJV)
I'll admit it, I'm worried. The doctor and P.A. were very reassuring. They tell me there are good drugs for this, whichever thing it turns out to be, though most likely Rheumatoid Arthritis. I'm worried less about the medical outcome than about the internal workings of my own heart and mind. Fretting doesn't help, but neither does a sort of mindless bliss. I guess I've always thought this passage in Matthew calls us not to a goofy "Don't worry, be happy" attitude or to an assurance that faith will make us prosperous and good-looking, but to a deeper place of recognizing that God is not rewarding us or punishing us, but is with us, come what may.
I'm fine with that, in theory, right up until I have to face my own limitations. Over the past few weeks I've heard myself saying over and over again, "I'm sure God will find someway to make me useful even if I have to live with limitations." Which is my way of saying, "If I'm not useful, what am I?"
I fear being the person who needs the help. I like being the person who gives it. I hear my grandmother's voice in my head, "Make yourself useful as well as decorative."
As I sit on my couch after a long day, with my hands in my lap, too sore to type or hold a book, with knitting beyond hope for the foreseeable future, I am living my bad dream: I toil not, neither do I spin. Can I find some usefulness in this period of forced inactivity? (Please, let it be just a period!) Or is the lesson a different one? Is it okay to be, to simply be, whether decorative or not? I'm wondering.