Life before Sjogrens

To those of you that have Sjogrens or Lupus, can any of you remember what life was like before you had it?  Can you even remember a time when life didn’t revolve around avoiding what makes you sick?

Being UV and flouro light sensitive, I have to stay in my own bubble and have minimal exposure to sunlight and by minimal, I am talking a mad dash to the office next door or to the car or from ‘A to B’ and even a 5 minute walk down the road can result in swollen joints, fluid on legs/ankles, dizziness, nausea, chest pain – you get my point.  And at work I sit in a dark office only lit by a small desk lamp, in fact if you walk by my office, you could be forgiven for thinking that I am not there.

You are my sunshine

The trouble is, I live in Australia and have done for almost five years hence the reason my ‘sickly’ state in the UK was not really picked up on, or rather I am comparable to a jigsaw puzzle that has taking years to piece together and when I moved to Australia, it was the proverbial straw that broke the camels back.  It call came to a head, I developed more symptoms which resulted in a diagnosis.

How on earth could I be allergic to something so beautiful?  Life to me is like looking in a cake shop window at all the cakes and not being allowed to touch them.  I look out of my living room window at the sun, blue skies, warm temperatures and know that for me it equates to several days in bed and a flare up of symptoms.

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Stunning sunset or ‘symbol of sickness’

Drink and be merry

I remember the times where I could go out and have a few glasses of wine, eat, drink and be very merry which would result in me doing something daft and embarrassing which could be relayed at many a gathering for months afterwards – drunken behavior, many of us do it or have done it.  I will not go into detail about how I broke my leg in a lesbian pole dancing club in Thailand in 2005 – but you know what I mean.

But even before my Sjogrens was diagnosed I knew that alcohol was making me quite sick.  After a night out my joints would ache the next morning and I would wake up unable to swallow and my face looked as though it had been sucked in and the life of me sucked out and sometimes I would wake up in the night choking due to my throat being so dry – basically I just felt crap.

So going out and getting drunk gradually became a thing of the past and I would settle on a couple of glasses of wine with a meal which after a while, would still make me feel just as bad.  I remember lying in bed one night wishing that the room would stop spinning, that the palpitations in my heart would stop and that the pain in my joints would go away.

The decision to stop drinking was taken away from me when I commenced on the methotrexate, it was a no brainer really – I was pumping my body full of potentially liver damaging drugs – steroids, plaquenil and methotrexate and even the painkillers that are a vital part of my medication.

It wasn’t easy giving up alcohol either, I was a 5 glasses of wine a week girl, hardly exceeding my units but when you have to have monthly blood tests to check your liver function, then no way would I want to add to the risks that my drugs already posed.  Now don’t get me wrong, those that are able to have a few drinks with their methotrexate, well that is their choice but for me, aside from the fact that alcohol was already making me feel sick, it just made sense to stop.

Now although there was no physical dependance there was certainly a mental one because there is nothing like seeing a chilled glass of white wine on the table to make you want to have a glass for yourself and as I am married to a chef, I actually developed what I called ‘wine envy’ when he used to enjoy a glass of wine with whatever delicious meal he had whipped up and there was I with my glass of water or orange juice and even with orange juice, rather than enjoy it, I did what many Sjogrens people do with everything they put in their mouth and that is to think ‘what the hell is this orange juice doing to my teeth?’ and ‘will this erode my enamel?’

You still have to live your life

Well you do don’t you?  And I tried to do just that last week when I went to a garden center with two of my friends.  Armed with my hat and of course being suitably covered up and smothered in total sunblock, we made our way to the garden center in temperatures being in the mid thirties.  I was going to be in the shade so I would be fine  (famous last words)

How wrong was I?  Because after ten minutes I felt the ground come up to meet me, I felt dizzy to the point I don’t know how I remained upright and my head was pounding and my stomach threatened quite violently to introduce itself to the pavement.

Making my way to the cafe, I sat down before I fell down and after we had a cup of tea, I asked my friends if we could go home and they very kindly obliged (thank you Dee and Clare xxx).

All I know is that when I got home I fell asleep and woke up intermittently at various intervals throughout the day and being aware that my ankles felt tight, sore and swollen and my fingers and hands were also swollen.  I have very little memory of the rest of the day but my husband said I was in bed for 7pm, I don’t remember him going to work the next morning, in fact I don’t remember putting myself to bed – I must have done though as that was where I woke up the next morning.

So I think that was my act of defiance, my ‘I am going to live my life’ kind of rebellion and my attempt to kick Sjogrens in the teeth rather than Sjogrens attempt to dissolve my own.  This act of defiance failed miserably and I am now back to gazing at the sunshine through the window and making my own entertainment during the times of high UV and pretending that whatever I do, is far more fun than anything a ‘normal’ person could ever do outside. (and if you believe that you believe anything)

So what was life like before Sjogrens?

  • Well, I used to go out and my only worry was did I have enough suncream on.  I used to be able to drink alcohol and go to parties – I can still go to parties but choose not to as there is nothing quite like a drunk person in your face giving a drunken lecture of some sort whilst spitting saliva at you with every word beginning with a ‘P’ (they are showing off as they have saliva and you don’t).
  • I used to only see the dentist every year instead of every four months and I now count my Immunologist, eye specialist, GP, pharmacist and dentist as part of my ‘family unit’.  We really ought to have family portrait for the living room wall.
  • My bed used to be only slept in at night time, now it is my best friend – next to the panadol osteo.
  • A joint was something I tried in Amsterdam in the form of ‘special cake’, now a joint of any kind equates to pain in my hands or ankles/knees.
  • I was quite the party animal at one point – yes I know that is hard to believe but now even listening to next doors wild parties leaves me exhausted and I can get a hangover merely breathing in their fumes.
  • I used to love swimming in the ocean, but now it is a military effort as I have to swim in a rash vest, long shorts, a hat and sunnies, total sunblock and I still get the rash over the bridge of my nose.

So what was your life like before you were diagnosed, do you have any funny stories to tell that could lighten the subject a bit? I would be most interested in your replies.

Now I am off to make a drink because last nights party at my next door neighbors that I wasn’t invited to, has left me completely shattered, in fact I could do with the ‘hair of the dog’.

Samantha Rose (C) Copyright 2013

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