Medications become a part of life with rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory autoimmune conditions. They are meant to control our pain and inflammation and are prescribed by our specialists with the intention of improving our quality of life. Sometimes things don’t go smoothly in our interactions with our doctors, pharmacists and insurance companies. I am one of the fortunate few who have never had problems with my pharmacy, my doctor or my insurance company. I did, however, have a problem with me.
“I never liked taking medication. I have harrowing childhood memories of my mother chasing me around the house with a vile cough syrup in her hand, and what I perceived as a giant spoon. Despite my protestations, I would swallow that dreadful-tasting fake cherry fluid with a whole lot of fuss, making sure she saw, and heard, every disgusted face, and sound, and witnessed the horrible after effect of what that medicine did to her only daughter. A trifle dramatic perhaps, but for several years after, I did everything I could to avoid taking cough syrup. This stubborn theory eventually evolved to include every type of medication. I turned to the natural world – I used hot water bottles to conquer cramps; I burned a calming lavender infusion to deal with headaches; I swore by my grandmother’s holy grail of hot toddies when colds or nasty viruses infested my body ( and I still swear by them); and then RA slipped into my life, resurrecting the image of my mother chasing me around the house with a bottle of cough syrup.
I was beset with a whole new world of medication that I now had to take every day, not just when symptoms appeared. My medicine cabinet embodied the image of a fairy-tale witch standing there, but instead of a shiny red apple, she had a giant spoon, a bottle of cough syrup and a mischievous grin. I grimaced the first time I swallowed my new medication. I had to retrain my stubborn child’s mind to accept this treatment, even though my temperament wanted to resist it. Through the course of my disease, I’ve heard about countless remedies that could cure my arthritis – anything from herbal formulas, to purified water and super foods. There’s a remedy for every ailment out there; with all these treatments, it can be difficult to know which one is right for your body. Humans are not built the same way and we all have our own unique response to different elements – what works for one person, may not work for another. When nature’s best intentions (and my imperfect stubborn will) weren’t strong enough to fight the burning footprints of old lady RA, I put my trust in the treatment recommended by my specialist; and he has not steered me wrong.”
I’ve come a long way from that kid running from her mother. My medications keep me moving, protect my joints, and reduce my pain – but I have also incorporated other kinds of “medicine” into my life –the occasional trip to the local hot springs does wonders for my body and my mind; the odd treat to a hot stone massage; hot baths, heating blankets, ice packs and above all, pleasurable distraction.
I’m not perfect. There are still times when my own stubborn nature will resist – but then I remember all the things I’ve accomplished and the things I have yet to do, and that awareness is the spoonful of sugar that overcomes my defiance when the image of that bottle of cough syrup threatens to resurface.
Thanks to Lawrence ‘rick’ Phillips for hosting RA Blog Week.
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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.