Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Early Morning Blues

Sleeping in - what a wonderful experience. I had planned to sleep in today until 8:30 AM, but it did not happen. Around 7:00 AM, I experienced severe pain in my left chest under and around the breast area. For the inexperienced, this would be as alarming as it is painful. "OMG, am I having a heart attack?" But I know better. What I am experiencing is a symptom of my lupus, which has been actively flaring for a month or so.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease in which the body mistakenly attacks its own tissues. The involved areas are various connective tissues throughout the body, such as joints and muscles. Another form of connective tissue is the type that form sacs around the heart and the lungs and that separate the diaphragm from the intestines, etc. There is also connective tissue between the ribs.

It is probably the sac around the lungs which is causing my pain this morning because breathing makes the pain more intense. Breathing. Something that people do how many times a minute every day until they die? Something no one can do without. It is a terrible thing to have pain that is intensified by breathing.

In my case, position of the body also contributes. When the pain woke me up this morning, I found myself in a fetal position cradling my left breast in my right hand even though the breast itself was not a source of the pain. I couldn't move, mostly out of fear. I have had this pain rip through my chest so severely that it made me cry and that happened to me just the other day while I sat in my recliner. That day I could not get up until the pain subsided and this morning would likely have been the same if Michael hadn't still been at home.

He came in to say good-bye before leaving for work and I had the opportunity to stop him from leaving. With Michael's help and 15 minutes of very slow, cautious movement, I managed to get out of bed and put my robe on. I do not dare sit in my recliner because I may not be able to get up from it. Perhaps I could try the sofa, which would be softer than this chair at my desk, but not so much so that I would be stuck in it.

This pain is like pleurisy. Perhaps I should say this pain IS pleurisy caused by lupus. I experienced it early in my disease which makes it a primary symptom for me. I recall a day in June of 1989 when I was in a meeting with a colleague. The telephone rang with a call for me. As I walked to the phone, I had a pain in my chest - in the very same place my pain is today - that literally doubled me over and almost brought me to my knees. Thankfully, it subsided as quickly and as mysteriously as it occurred.

Last week's pain subsided quickly, too, but today it won't let go. I have been dealing with it now for an hour and 20 minutes. The pain is like a fist gripping my rib cage. Every time I breath in, the fist squeezes. If I move too fast or the wrong way, the fist squeezes. I put two Salon Pas patches on my chest, but they don't seem to be working.

Aside: Salon Pas patches are a wonderful boon to anyone who suffers from joint or muscle pain. The patches contain aspirin (I'm pretty sure it is aspirin but, in my present condition, I am not going to go look) and release the medicine directly onto and into the affected area. Nights when my joint pain keeps me from sleeping, I get up and put a Salon Pas patch on the spot that hurts. Shortly, I am starting to feel less pain and then I can sleep. I first heard about this product on Paul Harvey's radio show. You can find it at the drugstore along side the other muscle and joint pain products. It isn't expensive and it works wonders on joint pain and muscle pain - apparently not on pleurisy, though.

I am waiting until 9:00 AM when I can call my rheumatologist. The staff is there already, but they won't take calls before 9 and the answering service makes me feel so unworthy if I want to reach the doctor outside of office hours. "Is this an emergency?" Well, most of the time it isn't an life or death emergency, but it is still awfully urgent for me. Oh, well. I can wait today, but I really hope he can help me because I have travel plans in two days.

I am flying to Minneapolis for a fabulous fun-filled weekend visiting my friend Ann, seeing my sister, viewing two fantastic art exhibits - Frida Kahlo and Georgia O'Keeffe - and attending a live show of Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion. I do not want to be compromised by this pain. For one thing, how would I get my belongings around the airport and through screening hunched over like I am right now? Or drive my car to the airport for that matter? So, hopefully, I will get a hold of the doc and get some relief from the pleurisy in the next day or so.

This hasn't been my most uplifting post, but I find it difficult to concentrate on anything but the pain, so that's what I can write about. Later I will bring the blog up to date on my recent artistic efforts.


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