It started with an ache that consumed my pinky over several days; at first it was easy enough to dismiss, for aches and pains were a daily occurrence; a few days later the ache became more intense accompanied with a sharp and distinct pain, different from the typical tenderness of RA. Had I inadvertently bruised or wounded my finger? I couldn’t recall.
I decided to make an appointment with my Rheumatologist. I thought perhaps I was in a flare and it might be a good time to check – it had been six months since my last visit. I chatted with the Rheumatology nurse first. She did a thorough examination, updating my file, asking me questions about the length of my morning stiffness and fatigue; she asked about any changes in vitamins, medications or exercise, checked for swelling and tender points, and tested my range of motion. She took my blood pressure and examined my hands probing each finger; when she reached my right pinky, a frown furrowed over her brow and she said, “I think there might be a nodule there…”
A what? A nodule? I was momentarily stunned. Wouldn’t that indicate damage? Haven’t I been doing all the right things, taking my medications, my vitamins, doing my exercises? Haven’t past x-rays, ultrasounds and CT scans shown everything to be normal? I couldn’t fathom how this little nodule had ripened on my finger, sneaking in like the proverbial weasel in a henhouse.
My Rheumatologist told me he would order an MRI to assess the damage; in the meantime, he was going to refer me to a special educational class where I could learn specific exercises to strengthen my hands and fingers. He did not see the need to change any of my medications – I guess he didn’t think it was too unexpected. I left the office, obsessively staring at my new finger bump; the more I looked at it the bigger it got. My imagination took over and all I saw was this mammoth crooked finger. In reality it wasn’t that bad – pretty tiny in comparison and, after all, it was on the smallest of fingers. Things could be worse.
I left that visit with a new bump and a bruised ego. I had lost this paltry battle, but before too long I recovered with a new determination to carry on and reinforce my barricade against old lady RA.
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J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress, and international arthritis advocate who’s been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and has published poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.