Cruellest of Life Sentences?

Polski: Reumatoidalne zapalenie stawów - zdjęc...

Polski: Reumatoidalne zapalenie stawów – zdjęcie RTG dłoni. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course, not everything in life is sweetness and light, and there is always a price to pay for contentment. We might all think that Dante’s Inferno, or hell is a warm place where you burn forever while you scream, but hell on earth can be equally tormenting. Other lifers out there might understand when I ask who among you knows the feeling of trying to walk on feet so painful that every step is like another jolt of mutilation with broken glass?

This walk of fire, having to be endured whenever the rheumatoid arthritis is especially bad, is but one aspect of being sentenced to life in that you can never rid yourself of this baleful and malevolent illness. The best you can hope for is that it can be kept in check with medication, but there is a downside even to that, because these medications can only work by compromising the immune system.

This double-edged sword, cruel and unforgiving, feels like a genuine case of imprisonment for anyone who has been used to a physically active life, because they must be careful, when outdoors, to avoid risking infections, but by the same token not overdo the physical exercise involved because the RA will bite back hard if you put joints under too much strain, and the medications can make you sleepy anyway.

Walking any more than a mile or so is such a challenge, when hands and feet constantly, and painfully remind you of the limitations the condition imposes, so for someone like me, who used to walk between 5 and 10 miles daily in the course of my job, and enjoyed country walks with my wife, this aspect of my unwanted incapacity is especially hard to swallow.

It was, believe it or not, the wish for a healthier life that led to my condition, because – a 40-a-day smoker – I decided on my 58th birthday to go cold-turkey and quit the dreaded weed of tobacco. I succeeded, but within three months was racked by waves of arthritic pain that often left me weeping helplessly, so terrible was the suffering, and I was forced to stop working.

It was to be several horrible, painful, distressing months before the medication combination that worked for me was eventually found, months in which there were many days when I could walk no more than a few yards before giving up. At that time I had difficulty holding on to a tea cup, and could barely lift the kettle, so they were dark days indeed for someone who had always thought themselves to be perfectly healthy, hale and hearty.

These days, the washing down of several tablets daily, and the fortnightly injections of powerful drugs serve to keep me relatively pain-free, though severely restricted in what I am able to do, so that the voice recognition software I employ provides my writing life-line, and enables me to at least still do that which I love, by creating written work for others to read and enjoy.

Despite the joy this gives me, I still feel, as I am sure do many other sufferers, that I am a prisoner of a determined and relentless gaoler, sentenced to being a lifer, and subject to the whims of that capricious judge and jury that is determined to see me suffer should I become too ambitious with attempts at physical activity.

Rheumatoid arthritis is not pleasant, is incurable and can at best be held in check by drugs that have far-reaching effects on the rest of your life. The condition truly is a life sentence in every sense of the phrase. You have to simply get on with things, if you are afflicted, and make the best of a bad situation, but rest assured, nobody sentenced to life in prison suffers anywhere near as much as those of us penalised by these health-related sentences, which we, unlike them, will never be allowed freedom from.

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  1. TheBrit

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