My Rheumatologist and I

Rhuma copy

I have tried a couple of times to sit down and write my end of the month reviews, but each time I’ve hit a wall. Quite simply, I haven’t been thinking much about the goals I set myself at the beginning of the year – I haven’t had time. For the past year now, I’ve been going back and forth with my doctor about some long-term chronic fatigue and pain I’ve been experiencing, and in the past few months, I’ve finally been getting seen, while the symptoms have still been worsening.

Honestly, this has been a part of my life for at least eleven years now, but at the beginning of Summer 2017, it started to feel a bit different. Obviously, my depression and anxiety cause an amount of fatigue, and many years ago I was diagnosed with ‘borderline’ Hypermobility Syndrome after chronic pain in my hips. It took three trips to my GP before they would even begin to consider other causes, referring me to see a rheumatologist, and even then it was a fight. But at least they did finally refer me.

Thanks to Royal Mail’s sterling service, I never actually received my referral letter. It was only when I received a reminder to make my rheumatology appointment that I even knew my doctor had done what they said they would. So when I first saw my rheumatologist in July, I had no idea what the doctor had finally referred me for. It turned out mentioning my dad’s Ankylosing Spondylitis (inflammatory arthritis that primarily affects the lower back) had been what convinced my doctor to refer me, and now they were looking for the same thing in me.

It was something that I had considered before. When my dad was first diagnosed many years ago, I was having lower back pain and headed to the GP then concerned. They sent me for an X-Ray, which came back clear, so just sent me for three sessions of physiotherapy. But they also did a blood test, which confirmed I do carry the HLA-B27 antigen, which is seen in 90% of Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) sufferers, and other inflammatory diseases. Now, it’s not guaranteed if you have the genes that you’ll get AS, but they certainly think it increases your chances. But I’d been told I was clear, so I went to the doctor thinking ‘It won’t be that!’

‘It won’t be that’ echoed through my head as the doctor looked at all my joints, took some measurements, asked the usual questions. It felt like it was all going pretty well really, except for the crunching in my right knee (the fact it does that all the time doesn’t make it normal, apparently). Then came the time to measure my mobility. I passed chest expansion with flying colours (AS can also affect your ribs, impacting your ability to breathe), and then came the back movements.

Now, thanks to the hypermobile joints I had when I was younger, I could touch my toes pretty easily for quite some time. I could even briefly lay my hands flat on the ground when I bent forward. So I really tried to show off for this doctor. Except I couldn’t. I haven’t been able to touch the floor without bending my knees for a while now. I stretched as far as I could, but the pain in my lower back stopped me from getting very far. Still, the result, I was told, was borderline normal. All good. All that was left was bending to the sides. Easy!

I don’t know if you’ve ever been at a doctor’s appointment where the doctor has turned to you and said ‘Well, that’s not good’, so I’ll let you know how it feels – Not great.

I got redressed and sat back down, waiting for some kind of signal that would hint about what he was writing. After waiting for what felt like forever, he explained the next steps.

Sixteen-week pathway to arthritis diagnosis. Blood tests, X-Ray, MRI Scan, Ultrasound, and then back in four months.

It’s been a long few months since then. I’m still waiting for my final appointment, but results have started trickling through. Letters and referral forms with mention of ‘clinical evidence of osteoarthritis and AS’, but also no evidence in any scans. This limbo is the worst. ‘Healthy’ people underestimate the importance of a diagnosis. When I had my ultrasound done on my hands, looking for damage in my joints, the gentleman conducting the scan turned to me all happy and said ‘Well, good news! I can’t see anything wrong’. I left the room holding back tears because no visible evidence = less difficult to diagnose.

So at the moment, I’m still in the limbo, waiting for my next appointment, hoping they find something and can actually help me. In the meantime, I’ve been accepting this isn’t something that will be easily fixed, and considering what changes I’m going to need to make to stop wearing myself out (for example, the 5KM inflatable fun run I did last weekend was not a good idea, and I’m still suffering physically for that). It’s going to take a little while to work through it, especially with an amount of uncertainty around it all, but I’m sure I can do it. I’m going to be opening up about my journey as it continues, so be sure to come back soon and see how I’m doing.

And for anyone else going through something similar, know that you’re not alone.

Advertisements

How I Managed to Spend No Money for Seven Days

My Post
As I’m preparing to go into July’s no-spend week, I thought it might be interesting to some people to get a little insight into how I make it work! These weeks, as well as stretching my money a little further, have really opened my eyes about my relationship with money (namely the number of times a week I think about spending it on things I really don’t need).

So, if you’d like to get some similar insights or make similar savings, but don’t know where to start, keep on reading.

Continue reading

2017 Achievements and Goals Revisited

 

Adobe Spark (1)

We’re nearly a quarter of the way through 2017, so now seems as good a time as any to review the goals I set myself for this year. This is also a chance to share my 2017 Achievements so far with you all, and for you to let me know how you’re getting on with you own in the comments  below.

1. Finish My Master’s Degree

Back in January, I submitted my first essays for my Master’s degree. I’m not going to lie, it was terrifying. I barely scrapped through my Undergraduate degree, so have been going through some serious imposter syndrome since I got accepted onto the course.

All of this taken into consideration, imagine my surprise when I more than passed my first two modules. My university doesn’t do merit grades for Master’s degrees, but if they did I would be well on my way to getting one. I honestly couldn’t be happier! I’m holding onto my achievements so far as I head into the Easter break – the time to get my next two assessments done and dusted. A distinction isn’t completely out of the question if I score well on these, so I’m going to be throwing myself into the work to make it the best that it can be!

2. Fit in More Crafting

I’ve been a little up and down with this goal. Some weeks I’ve been doing loads (generally when I have something to procrastinate from),and others I haven’t gone near anything craft related. I’m slowly improving though, remembering to make time for myself. I’ve also been reminded that I always feel better when my downtime still seems productive. With this in mind, I’ve taken to adding craft projects to my to do list, so that I feel like I’m getting stuff done whilst still making time for myself to relax. I currently have a couple of projects on the go, which I hope to share with you all soon. I’ve also just finished a huge cross stitch project that I’ve been working on for over a year. I’m hoping to post about it soon – it just needs to get to it’s recipient first!

3. Develop My Career

I started the year by returning to a career I thought I had left behind me long ago. In hindsight, adding a full time job on top of full time studies probably wasn’t the wisest of choices. Regardless of this, it went really well, and I began to question why I had ever left it in the first place.

So, since then I have been seeking out stage management work again. It’s been a little difficult, as I’m restricted by my contact hours at university, but I’ve been making a couple of applications a month. I even have a job interview this week for a perfect sounding job that would combine my stage management experience with my growing applied theatre knowledge. So, fingers crossed for that.

In the meantime, I’ve been continuing with my work placements for university. On top of my pre-existing one from last term, I have a new placement each Wednesday. This one focuses on Marketing and Administration; Two areas I have very little experience in but which will be essential in my future involving an amount of freelance work. On top of my work placement, I’ve started doing some paid reception work with them, which should help make ends meet!

I’m still not sure where all this is leading me. I suspect though that I might be heading towards a series of odd jobs to make ends meet, interspersed with the work I want to do. When I work out what that is, exactly.

4. Make New Friends

I kind of hate myself for putting this on my list of goals for the year. It’s not that I don’t want friends – it wouldn’t be on my list if that was the case. It’s just so difficult! I hate having to put myself out there. Years of social anxiety and trust issues have built a massive wall I have to climb over whenever anything remotely friendship like comes my way.

That being said, I have been making baby steps in the right direction (mainly with help from my lovely ‘Mental Health Specialist Mentor,’ courtesy of the university.) I met up with an old work colleague. I’ve been pushing myself to join more conversations between classes at university. Most scarily of all (for me, at least) I went along to a London Craft Club meetup earlier in the month. The bonus of this is that there was very little pressure to socialise, as everyone was engaged in their own crafts. Plus, it helped me towards my second goal of making more time for my crafts. I haven’t managed to go back since then, but I’m hoping I will some time soon.

So basically, no huge leaps of progress towards any of my goals as of yet, but a couple of little achievements worth mentioning. I’ve listed them below, mainly for personal bragging reasons. It also helps boost my mood when I’m feeling rubbish to remember everything I’ve achieved. Don’t forget to add your own achievements and goals in the comments!

 

2017 Achievements

  1. I have received good marks for my Master’s degree assessments so far.
  2. I worked on a show as a Stage Manager for the first time in three years. The show got great reviews, and I received high praise for my part on the show.
  3. Pushing myself to the edges of my comfort zone, I went to a craft group meetup.
  4. I completed a super secret craft project that I’ve been working on for over a year. Hopefully you’ll hear more about this really soon!

Ch-Ch-Changes

Way back in 2013, I was just starting my career in stage management. It had been my life since 2008, when I undertook my first Assistant Stage Manager role on a production of ‘His Dark Materials.’ I immediately fell in love with the craft, and for the next two years, most evenings after school were spent at my local theatre, working on productions as part of the Young People’s Theatre. (At one point, my English teacher pulled me aside and told me I needed to stop wasting time at the theatre if I wanted to get a decent A-Level grade – I got a B, and the highest exam result of my class.) When it came to applying for university, there was no question as to what I wanted to do, and I was accepted onto the stage management course at the (now-Royal) Central School of Speech and Drama.

Shortly after starting my career however, my mental health problems reared their ugly head again. By the time graduation rolled around in December, I had moved home and was unemployed. There was little chance of getting a stage management job locally, but even if there was, I couldn’t see myself doing it. I’d fallen out of love with it and, more importantly, I wasn’t mentally in a position to cope with it.

Looking for a new job, I re-examined my core values and came to one conclusion; I wanted to be helping people. After a brief time driving a van for a local supermarket, I found my dream job as a Support Worker for Adults with Learning Disabilities.

After a year though, I started to feel restless in the job I loved. I was starting to reach my peak, with no opportunities to grow becoming evident. I took on a part time role with a youth organisation, working in the development team to set up new provision in deprived areas. Like with my full time position, I fell in love immediately. But it was only so long before I became restless again.

I guess you could say I was bored. Whilst my part time job was providing the opportunities I craved, a majority of my week was the same thing, day in, day out. Part of the reason I loved theatre was that no two days were the same. And I wasn’t ready to give up my past. I wanted theatre back in my life, one way or another.

So here we are. September 2016 – time for a change.

Change One 

As of the 23rd September, I will once again be unemployed. I’m in the process of wrapping up loose ends at the moment.

Change Two 

I am moving back out of the family home, and returning to the frighteningly expensive capital city of London. Five bedroom house to a tiny bedsit.

Change Three 

And this should explain some things. I’m heading back to my alma mater as a postgraduate student, studying a Master’s in Applied Theatre. Applied theatre is “the use of drama in an educational, community or therapeutic context” (Wikipedia) – in other words, the perfect combination of my two passions.

It’s a lot of change in a short amount of time, and I’m constantly shifting between excited and “Oh my god, what have I done?”. But I’m mostly looking forward to the challenge and the change of scenery. And I’ll be sure to share my insights along the way!

When Zoe Met Roxy

I have wanted a cat of my own for years. My family has always had cats, but they were never properly mine, you know? And when I moved into student halls I faced my first catless years. It was horrendous. I’d taken for granted the puke on your pillow, the constant stench of kitty litter, the ‘playful’ bat to the nose.

Third year of university, and I finally moved out of halls. This meant only one thing to me: I could get a cat. Sure, I didn’t actually ask my landlord, but my uncle was his handyman and had assured me it would be fine.
So, to the internet I went (with my more experienced cat-buyer mum.) Within days, I’d found The One. A beautiful three year old, blue colour pointed Ragdoll, who was retiring from breeding and looking for a furever home. It was love at first sight.
My mum contacted her owner, who on paper said I was the perfect candidate but she wanted to meet me and see if Roxy likes me first. It’ll sound pathetic, but I was nervous the whole drive down. I’d joked to my mum that I should line my pockets with catnip, but didn’t want to end up with a whole lap of cats.
My nerves were still there when I sat down, waiting for her to bring Roxy in. And then there she was. And she came running over, and jumped into my lap.
Day We Met
 The day we met.
All she wanted was explore. All I wanted was a photo.
Three years later, I still couldn’t be happier that I found such a good furry friend. People say that cats are uncaring and aloof, but that’s never been the case with me and Roxy. We both fell in love at first sight.
Roxy is more than a pet to me; she’s a best friend, a confidante, a therapist (which I’ll talk about more later.)
Roxy Poser
Our most recent selfie – ever the poser
This whole post may sound sappy, but we really did pick each other, and she makes me happy everyday.

Z&R
X

Welcome to the Crafty Cat Mum!

All About Zoe

My name’s Zoe, and I live with my beautiful ragdoll Roxy in North London. Welcome to our little corner of the internet! I’m a full time student, whose free time is filled with all things crafty. The local craft store staff know me by name and my credit card wilts whenever I go too close. So, I figured it’s time to stop spending money on crafts and time to start writing about it instead (swap one addiction for another, so to speak!)

All About Roxy

Roxy is a blue colour point ragdoll, who will soon be reaching her tenth birthday. She once belonged to a breeder, but came to me when she was searching for a fur-ever home. Five years later and I couldn’t be happier with my constant companion.

Roxy Intro
My gorgeous kitty, Roxy

Find out more about us on our About Page! Until then, we hope you enjoy what we have to say!