What Is It With Spring?

spring flowers

It’s supposed to be a great time of year – flowers blooming. Longer, warmer days.
The promise of summer on the horizon. You would think that spring might be a
good time for arthritis. If you imagine months of winter cloistered indoors,
and cold weather that makes getting exercise outside difficult – you could draw
the conclusion that spring would be like breaking out of a cocoon. You would
imagine that arthritis would melt away a bit, like the winter snow…. That
inflammation would decrease and mobility would stretch its wings.

I have to say, in our experience… not so much. Instead, spring for the past
several years has meant certainty of a flare. It’s almost comical now in its
predictability – except this is SOOOO not funny.

Three years ago, Caitlin had her first period of remission. It was totally
unexplained, meaning we had stopped one drug because it seemed to be failing
and were sort of in a holding pattern trying to decide the next treatment.
Without reason, she improved throughout winter and by February, had her first
normal lab results in six years. At the time, she was only on methotrexate.

I noticed that year that Caitlin for the first time had seasonal allergy
symptoms. Runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing. The allergies came in early, and I
remember we were all a little amazed to see her immune system doing something
slightly normal – meaning she was having symptoms that millions of people have
instead of her body warring against itself with an immune response causing
painful, inflamed joints.

For three months, she had all good days and at our May visit, the doctor said the
“R” word for the first time. It had never seemed like a possibility before….
And we were cautiously optimistic. I cried all the way home. Two weeks later,
Caitlin woke one morning barely able to move. Most of her joints were swollen.
It was a pretty bad flare that took much of the summer to get under control…
and that’s a pretty sad thing when a kid finally gets out of school for the
summer but is so fatigued and inflamed, they don’t feel like doing anything.

By fall of 2007, things were under control again and we were participating in a
clinical trial. By winter, we had those great lab results back and things were
looking good. In spring of 2008, it was de ja vu again, as a flare hit mid-May.
We had a repeat in Spring, 2009 – but frankly, her hip pain was so overwhelming
last year before her surgery that the flare was really just a foot note.

Well, here we are again. Colors blooming, nose running, and knees flaming. And I
noticed that we are not the only ones…. We have a couple of friends nearby
flaring after long remissions. I hear that this is one of the worst years for
seasonal allergies in this region, because of our heavy fire season last year
followed by so much rain over winter.

There definitely is a connection….. I talked with the rheumy and he said, “Of
course”. We talked about seeing an allergist, but I hate subjecting Caitlin’s
system to so many things that could potentially could ignite a flare as a
response. And I also wonder what good it might do. What if she is allergic to
pollen? It’s not like that is something I can remove from the air….. But what
if it’s something we can control?

We’ll probably see an allergist when she is more stable. For now, we are starting her
on daily Zyrtec and trying to push the beast back into the cave. Her labs
showed that the inflammation is not too bad – her SED rate was barely elevated.
But the knees…. The knees don’t lie.

So, it’s back to the daily Naprosyn and we’re pulsing with Prednisone, hoping to
get back to where we were…. While trying not to worry about what the next
choice might be. We’re trying to make the most of spring – but frankly, I’m
secretly wishing for fall.

swollen knees


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