The Climb: Coming to Grips with RA

“There’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose
Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waitin’ on the other side
It’s the climb” – Miley Cyrus

at some point you just have to let go of what you thought should happen and live in what is happening.:


Yes, I know this song was featured in a Hannah Montana movie and I’m okay with that. Carly loved her some Hannah Montana back in the day.

I spent the spring since my last marathon training for a half marathon. I didn’t set any PRs and I struggled mightily. One really apparent thing during spring half training is that I was in some serious pain after every long run and every morning whether I ran the night before or not. My training partners are all getting faster and I’m getting slower. I emailed by Ironman Rheumatologist and he ordered some more tests, blood and x-ray and an ultrasound of the joints in my feet. The bad news is that my Rheumatoid Arthritis is getting worse. The swelling in my joints can be seen on the ultrasound. I’m hobbled if I sit for too long or get up too quick in the morning.

I saw my doctor yesterday. I was dreading the appointment. I knew it wasn’t going to be good news but I’m in pain, y’all, so I went. Rob is a great doctor and a good guy. He is pragmatic but honest. We went through the options. I told him training for Chicago starts on June 17. He sighed. He said we’d been avoiding the higher dosage drugs because I didn’t want the side effects. He said I wouldn’t be able to train for a marathon on what I was currently taking. I made the difficult decision to begin taking methatrexate. It’s a chemotherapy drug. It’s given, in higher doses, to breast cancer patients. In folks with RA, it’s given in lower doses but packs a list of side effects, most commonly nausea, that are longer than I like. I have to take folic acid every day. I have to take the methatrexate every Wednesday. I won’t feel relief for 8-12 weeks but training starts before then. He told me I’d have to gut it out until then. I’ve been gutting it out since before Kiawah. I’ll just do it because I’m stubborn AF and it’s what I do.

The worst part? When he handed me my after visit summary and I was walking to the lab with my orders for three more vials of blood for more tests, I looked down at the paperwork and saw he had coded my RA as “moderate” and no longer “mild”. My mom had a very serious autoimmune disease and, through a series of mishaps, that disease eventually took her life much too early. My dearest, oldest and most special friend’s mom (my second mom who I had known my whole childhood) died from complications of RA. I am really good about taking my kids to specialists, chasing down diagnoses for them and getting them all the help they need while pretending like I’m fine. I told the kids mom was going to be taking some nasty medications and we were going to have to band together in our little pre-existing condition world and hope for the best.

Rob asked me if Chicago would be my last marathon. I told him we’d have to see what the future holds. If the new meds work, I’d like to keep doing this with the recognition that there will be a day when I can no longer do this and that day may come before I can run another marathon. It may come later as I still have a couple of marathons on my bucket list. Am I deluding myself? No. I like to think that I still have this thing called “hope” and, despite the really crappy things that have been happening in my personal life and this new escalation of my disease, I need to be positive because with no hope there is only despair and that just isn’t my style.

So, here’s to the beginning of another marathon training cycle. I’ve started regular work outs with a strength coach. I like him. He makes me push myself and he is a fabulous cook and has inspired me to get back on my homemade eating kick. Training should help me get to the starting line with no injuries, it should make my running more efficient (which hopefully means a new marathon PR) and it helps build up my muscles to take some stress off the joints in my feet.  As always, I am so grateful for the wonderful people in my life. We’re going to make this work.

Getting Inside My Own Head — The Aloha Files. What happens when a mental panic starts to take over and how to overcome it before a race.: