Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009 A Year of Ups and Downs

Looking back on 2009, it has been a year of ups and downs for me.  It started off good, with great weather and several rides on my new bike, before we got hit with an ice storm at the end of January.   I started my downturn with RA at about this time also.  Not one to sit around and whine about it, I pushed myself over the next few months.  Working with RA can somedays be challenging at best.  There were days that I would wake up to go back to work feeling as bad as I did after finishing the previous shift the day before.  I survived and most days was able to laugh about it.  September was eventful, I switched to Orencia and started training for running the front end of the printing press that I work on.  Once I learn all of it, it will be easier on me and my RA.  I still hurt everyday, have a minor amount of swelling but the stiffness from sitting very long and the fatigue continue to bother me, but overall I am doing better than before starting on Orencia.  I believe that the Orencia will continue to help me more through the first part of 2010.

Riding was a different story though, I was no longer able to take the punishment of hardcore woods riding.  I reluctantly began my switch from some dual sport rides to all dual sport rides by around April.  I still try to slip in a few miles of hardcore woods each time out, but its mostly atv trails, fire roads, dirt roads and some asphalt now.  I did manage to log just over 1800 miles this year, the most I have rode in several years.  I went through 3 back tires on the 525 this year, and as far as my bike goes, I like it more each time I ride it.  I was a bit intimidated when I first bought it, it had been a while since I had rode anything over a 200.  My 200 puts out 27 hp and weighs in at 231lbs.  My 525 puts out 55-57 hp and weighs 252 lbs.  The acceleration and pure torque of this bike makes riding anywhere fun.  I have had my bike up to 87 mph, and it was not anywhere close to being topped out.  Thats ok because I was.  Next time you're running 85 down interstate, think about opening the door and jumping out.  You'll see why I backed off.

I also expanded my blog into my struggles with RA this year.  It has been a very comforting experience to talk with people who are experiencing the same struggles that I am going through.  The doctors, your friends and family are supportive, but its just not the same as talking with people who have RA.  One of my fellow RAer's posted this a couple of months back, "To get it, you have to have it", very true.  I am thankful for the friendships I have made in the RA blogosphere and hope both my friendships and the RA blogosphere will continue to grow in 2010.

I hope that 2010 will treat all of us good, I don't personally make new years resolutions, but I am going to try to be better to my family and myself this year, and hopefully I will feel good enough to get back in the gym soon.  I hope all of you have a happy and safe new years.  Oh, by the way, if you are sitting around the house with nothing to do on New Years Eve, check out ESPN at 11 pm eastern for Travis Pastrana's record attempt car jump for Red Bull.  Travis will be jumping from Long Beach's Pine Street Pier to a barge that will be anchored in the harbor.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Unusual Christmas

The picture above answers that old question you have always had in the back of your mind: How many Santa's can you get in a phone booth?  Answer: 3

What an unusual Christmas it's been this year.  We have always celebrated Christmas at my parents, my mom's side of the family gets together Christmas eve, then we spend the night with my parents and open presents Christmas morning.  My wife had to work Christmas day and I have to go in the day after Christmas so we had Christmas early this week at my parents, and it just felt empty this year.  We were missing seeing my family for Christmas eve and spending time kicked back with my parents.  Instead we were in a rush, a couple of days before Christmas, to get up to their house (they live 100 miles north of us), take them out to eat, exchange presents then rush back home because Donna had to go to work the next day.  I have missed visiting with friends and family this year.

Then Christmas eve, a storm blew in around 6:30, the rain changed to sleet and after eating with my daughter and her boyfriend, we looked outside.  Much to our shock, we had 2 inches of snow on the ground and roads. I am 51 years old and this is my third white Christmas, it just doesn't happen around here.  I had been aching from the cool rain we had received all day but the aches changed to pain as the night went on even though I was safely inside where it was warm.  The temperature dropped to 18 with the wind chill down below 0.  We had 15-20 mph winds with gusts up to 50-60 mph.  OK, I'm officially through with winter now.  What happened to our supposed global warming?  Haven't heard much about that this past year.

I got a FieldSheer dual sport jacket for Christmas.  I can't wait to get out and test it once we get some decent weather again.  It is wind and water proof, has 11 zippered pockets for everything from maps to cell phones, a removable liner, and built in pads (chest, shoulder, collar bone, back and elbow).  I weighed and then put the jacket on and reweighed ... the jacket weighs 11 pounds!  I tried it out this afternoon while shoveling the snow and ice off of the sidewalks ... with a pair of shorts and tennis shoes on.  It's ok, the neighbors know I'm crazy any way.

I hope everyone had a good Christmas and was able to enjoy it with friends and family this year.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Memories

This year our Christmas may not be as big or elaborate as in the past, but that doesn't stop what is in our hearts. I believe most people feel that Christmas is far too commercialized, unless perhaps, they own a retail store. Perhaps the commercialization can be blamed for the depression that many people feel around this time of year. I've got this, and this, a new car, and credit cards, but I still feel empty.

I have received many wonderful presents over the years for Christmas, but off the top of my head, I can't name one of them. I can, however recall the Christmas that uncle Jim got to come back for Christmas (major league baseball player) unexpectedly, or the year we had snow at Christmas and all of the kids along with some of the adults had a snowball fight or the year my cousin Ricky dressed up as Santa and came in with presents for all of the little kids, ...etc.

I have been a bit under the weather for a couple of weeks and although I am feeling better now, there's no denying that I just haven't felt up to, or really cared about getting all of the lights and decorations up this year. A big part of that feeling comes from living with RA day after day. But lets face it, Christmas isn't about having the best decorated house, or how much new stuff you can add to your outside display. Although, at our old house in Fort Smith, I had 2 great neighbors and the 3 of us started trying to outdo each other at Christmas. It was for fun, we used to help each other while visiting and laughing about who had the most lights up each year. One of those neighbors passed away this summer. By the time we sold our house and moved, there were 6 or 7 houses in on it ... some of them had never even put out outside lights before, but were out decorating, visiting and laughing with us.

I would like to wish you and all your families peace and happiness this season as well as good health and prosperity in 2010.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I Really Am Lucky

It's been a challenging, but good week at work. I am settling in at my new job and gaining confidence by leaps and bounds now. I no longer have to check notes before I make a move, I just do it now. It was a little bit intimidating taking over the controls of a 10 million dollar press with only 3 weeks training, so I checked notes I had made quite a bit until it just all at once sunk in this week. Everything is controlled by computer on the press, so there was a lot to learn regarding what screen does what and where a screen was that you needed to get to. I know printing, I've been around printing for some 20+ years but this is a completely new press. I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks.

I am over my sinus infection so I am back on my methotrexate and am going in for an Orencia infusion Monday. It is good that we have these drugs to help fight off the progression of RA, but sometimes you don't really realize how much they are actually doing until you go off of them for a short time. I have been in an elevated state of pain all week. It hurt to walk, sit or stand up and my hands were stiff and swollen. I have had trouble hanging on to everything this week. Yesterday was my last work day for the week and I hurt so badly, it must have taken me 4-5 minutes to put my socks and boots on. I just couldn't bend anymore.

It's frustrating to have new rubber(tires) on my bike, it is now tagged and officially street legal for dual sport rides anywhere, we are going to have a 60 degree day tomorrow but I just hurt too bad to ride. I could ride no problem but I don't want to pay for it later since I'm already hurting more than normal. Man, looking back, I have turned in to a big wimp. I have raced with a broken ankle before, raced with 3 week old cracked ribs, ... now I won't even go out for a dual sport ride just because of a little RA pain.

I wish everyone a pain free and Merry Christmas and hope you can enjoy it with friends and family this year. Even though I have RA, I have been blessed many times over and this time of year it always hits me how lucky I really am.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tis The Season

Not too much going on this week. I have been fighting off a mild sinus infection while working over the weekend. In addition to the long 12 hour shifts and fighting off the sinus, I did not take my methotrexate and missed an Orencia infusion, so my RA is making the most of the situation right now. Overall, I can't complain, I feel better after skipping MTX 2 weeks back to back and one infusion than before I switched to the Orencia. That's not to say that I don't hurt or that I don't have difficulty getting up and down or putting my shoes and socks on, but those are everyday things that I deal with. I truly don't know what it feels like nor do I ever expect to be pain free, ever again.

It's so cold I can't get out to do anything this week so I am cleaning up my music/computer room and doing a few things that I have been putting off. I bought some mp3's yesterday. I have an app on my iPhone that is called Shazam. If you hear a song that you don't know the name of, you open the app and hit the TAG NOW button and hold the phone toward the speaker. Within 20-30 seconds you have who the band is, the title of the song and the name of the CD, links to buy the song, videos and biographies and websites of the band. Amazing little app and best of all, it was a free app. I can't even imagine how big the database would have to be or the programming that went into this app, and they're giving it out free.

I have been working toward making my race bike street legal for dual sport rides that I do now. I finally tagged my bike yesterday, yep a full out woods race bike with a license plate on it. It looks pretty weird, but now if we get stopped, I will be legal. I have everything except turn signals on it. I am going to heat the shop up and put my new rear tire on later today.

I am so ready for some normal December temps so I can ride. The biggest part of December, we have averaged nearly 20 degrees below normal. Our daytime highs are what our normal overnight lows run for this time of the year. Have I told you lately that "I HATE WINTER". It never has been my favorite time of year, but I never hated it. Then enter RA, and it just flat out hurts me now. Oh well, tis the season to be hurting...falalalala.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Rough Going Back To Work

I was off for 11 days over Thanksgiving and put in 2 LONG rides on my bike and had a great Thanksgiving dinner with friend's and family. My RA paid me back for the first ride (171 miles) so the Saturday after Thanksgiving Randall talked me into going back out again. We had a crazy ride that included 2 flat tires, stopping to eat one of the best cheeseburgers you could ever have, riding brand new trail, getting lost and running into bats in the dark on the way back ... all at the end of November. And the crazy thing, I felt better after the ride than before I went. Never hurt after the second ride at all.

After going back to work this week, I hurt so bad the first day. I could barely walk due to the fact that we had press problems and I did not get to sit down except for my breaks. That means that I was standing, walking, climbing ladders and stairs and crawling on my hands and knees for 10 1/2 hours in steel toe boots. For those of you who have never worn steel toed boots, consider yourself very lucky, especially if you have damage to your feet. The second and third day were a little easier on me.

My printing supervisor stopped and asked me how my RA was and the medication I am taking for it now. His wife also has RA and we have talked several times about it. I told him I was on Orencia now and explained that I was a little disappointed that the results were not better than they are. He told me that his wife was using Orencia and it took her close to 6 months after starting it to really feel good. So now, I am hopeful that I will continue to get a little bit better.

I have been having some doubts about whether I can do the new job that I am training for. He also told me that he had been observing me, he appreciated me and that I was going to make an excellent press operator. The funny thing about this is, I was going to talk to him, when I went on my next break, about possibly turning my bid back. Odd how things work sometimes.