Friday, November 17, 2017

Health Update Month

Most of November, at least weekly, I'm being checked, drained, infused, walked, PFT'd and otherwise followed up on treatment for RA mostly to see whether what's been done is working. So far, so good.

This series of tests, evaluations, infusions, medications and visits with the doctor(s) should wind up by December 1, and the results so far indicate that I may -- stress 'may' -- be going into "remission with medication". In other words I will have to continue taking pretty high doses of immunosuppressants but that most symptoms of RA will be in abeyance for the duration.

The surprise yesterday was with my consulting pulmonologist and the tests leading up to seeing her.  She wanted a six minute walk and a pulmonary function test to compare with previous tests I'd had in April and July of this year. I did the walk with very little strain at all. The only real issue was high-ish blood pressure, but the technician said it was actually "not that bad."

I dreaded the PFT (pulmonary function test). I call it "torture." I'm sure it's nothing compared to what the various targeted prisoners in our various foreign and domestic gulags face on a daily basis, not even close, but it's definitely uncomfortable for someone with pre-existing breathing difficulty.

So there I am in The Booth of Doom chatting with the technician who says she's been doing this for 40 years and yadda and yadda, and she starts the tests, and... gee, it seems much easier on my end. So we chat some more and she points out that the test equipment as well as the Booth itself are somewhat different between hospitals. Yesterday I was at UNM Main Hospital in Albuquerque whereas the other tests were done at Presbyterian's Kaseman Hospital.

We go through the rest of the series of breathing tests and I tell her this time it seemed to go much easier for me. She prints out the results that I'm to hand-carry to the consulting physician, and as it happens, I have the previous results with me so I compared and contrasted over lunch. No, I don't know how to read the print out medically, but I could compare numbers line by line, and it was surprising to see that some of the lowest numbers in the past were now significantly higher.

When I saw the doctor that afternoon, she said that as far as she could tell, my results were mostly either within normal range or nearly so. Which was a great improvement over previous tests. The only worrisome number was lung capacity which is still low -- but not as low -- and she said that was due to scarring that had already taken place from RA, scarring that couldn't be reversed. However, it wasn't getting worse, and there was a slight improvement in capacity over time, which she said was due to medication preventing further progress of the lung damage.

I told her I no longer use Albuterol inhaler, don't use Spiriva, don't use oxygen, and haven't done pulmonary rehab. She said the improvement is therefore due to the effectiveness of the medications I'm taking  and that it may be possible to reduce the high doses I've been on slowly over time, but that I will have to be monitored fairly often to make sure there's no relapse.

Finally, she asked if I'd been diagnosed with COPD. I said yes, before the RA diagnosis. She said, "If you have COPD, it's very mild. In fact, you may not have it at all."

Oh. My.

I told her I felt like the treatments since May have been nothing short of miraculous.

I have another Rituxan infusion (the 4th) next week, then to the eye doctor and my primary rheumatologist the following week. Whew.

We'll see.

Meanwhile, busy-busy-busy with more and more daily activities including boosting Ms Ché's performing and academic career. Here she is with a couple of other indigenous women performing "Stop! In the name of Love" at the  Indigenous Liberal Studies talent show the other day.

Stop! In the name of Love
Yes, I know, the lighting is bad, it's fuzzy as heck, and they're all wearing one dress. Of course. But oh my such hooting and hollering from the audience. Fun!

And before you wonder how 'indigenous' the choice of music was, all three performers are indigenous women, and therefore the performance is by definition indigenous. At this particular art school, the question gets raised periodically -- "What is Indigenous Art?" The answer was provided long by former instructor Fritz Scholder

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