Wednesday, 22 February 2017

When you have RA, and someone close to you is in pain or unwell

So, Dragon Dad has done his back. It's a chronic issue - years and years of cycling have resulted in a significantly weak spot in his lower back. He has some low grade chronic pain there, but because he stretches regularly and keeps himself fit and strong, it's usually quite manageable. 

Until he does something stupid - his word, not mine. Although, when he told me, I did think it...

In yet another effort to shed those last few kilos he has become obsessed about - particularly since he - a one time track cyclist turned distance cyclist - started tackling climbing in a big way. It started when No.1 got into cycling, having entered himself - a runner - in a triathlon, for which he'd need a bike and to be able to swim competitively (and that's a whole other long story). Once he'd started to get basic bike skills together, Dragon Dad started going out with him, mentoring him and teaching him road skills on a bike. Then came the day he came home after their first long ride in one of Sydney's national parks.

"I hate him!" he said to me, "The little shit can climb!"

Climbing isn't something you can learn, per se. It's a talent within cycling, which is why the big teams - think Tour de France - have a mix of different types in them. The sprinters, the workhorse types who can just keep going, and the climbers. No.1 is a climber. He can do distance, and after years in the gym building strength to last in long distance runs, he's strong as well as very fit. But that's not all you need to climb a mountain on a bike - you need that elusive talent.

So Dragon Dad, as can be his way, got obsessed about climbing. To give him his due, he was looking for a new challenge on the bike, and had talked about going back to the track. But No.1 had handed him a challenge that his inner competitor couldn't resist. 

His bike is also his 'cave'. He NEEDS to train. It's one of the things he uses to keep himself emotionally on track. He chases his demons away via physical exertion. A lot of people do that. Apart from anything else, you get a goodly rush of endorphins when you train hard - painkilling, feel good hormones. Lovely stuff. He starts to get twitchy when he doesn't train regularly. 

Now, typically, climbers are small. While No.1 is 6'2", he inherited my exceptionally fine frame, and weighs maybe somewhere in the high seventies (kilos). Dragon Dad, ex sprinter, is a big man. 6'1.5", and built. BIG muscles, big legs, particularly. There's hardly any fat on him - he's exceptionally lean - and he weighs in at a bit over 100kg. He's climbing well, these days, regularly beating his cycling mates - all of whom are considerably lighter than him, with much lighter bikes too - up the hills they're climbing. But a lot of that is sheer guts and bloody mindedness, because he's hauling very many more kilos up those hills, between his own weight and that of his bike. Hence the obsession about dropping down under 100kgs, preferably making 90kgs...

Cue fad diets and extreme training. Most of the latter happens on the bike, bolted onto a trainer in the carport. An hour on the trainer doing the programs he's doing equals two on the road. So he wanted to add to that. Came up with a new food plan - which has him hungry all the time, and he does 'hangry' really well...or not well, depending on your point of view. And found a particularly nasty gym routine, joined a gym that had all sorts of alternative equipment, and started.

In his second session, doing something with a loaded sled, he stuffed up, and injured his back. Came home much earlier than I'd expected, in a world of pain. He did do as I suggested at that point - had a hot shower and got some heat onto it, took some anti inflams and painkillers, rested, and after some pressure, took a Valium too - some preventative muscle relaxing in the hopes that it wouldn't jam and go into spasm. BUT, he wouldn't maintain that over the next few critical days, so it jammed. And the pain got a lot worse. Initially, he was stoic - he can do pain. But as time went on and it continued to get worse, that deteriorated too. I suggested a physio...

"What's a physio going to do? They're all hopeless!"

Well, they're not. Not the good ones. And I have a referral for one here who sounds as if he works very much like my wonderful Sydney one. I've yet to see him, but I trust the person who referred him. But no, he decided to go have a massage. Came back feeling a little better, as the massage would, of course, have temporarily relaxed the spasms. But, it would also have stirred up the inflammation, and by the next day, it was bad again. A couple of days later, he conceded that a physio might be a good idea - but instead of going to the one I have the referral for, he went back to the practice where the massage therapist is and saw a young one there. Came back furious, and ranting. Had been given - as he put it - a lecture on strengthening his core, and posture, and little actual treatment. Fair enough that he was cross - his core is very strong, as is his posture. It's an INJURY. Needed ultrasound, possibly some realignment, and maybe some needling. A follow up visit later that day to the doctor - at a mass clinic where he never sees the same person twice in a row - had him come home with slow release paracetamol and a mild NSAID - and MORE ranting. Useless physios, useless doctors - over and over again. 

A week on, and it's pretty dire here. Over the same two weeks, I've had my infusion, and the resultant side effect headache, on top of some fairly serious pain because my body had lost the plot prior to the infusion and it takes some time for the new dose to kick in. It's also been a bad sinus congestion month - also a sometimes side effect from the biologic. I've felt very flat and more than a bit useless, as that first week was a bit of a write off. Physically I'm coming good, but the emotional toll of a climate of constant aggro from Dragon Dad due to his pain and frustration is getting to me. He's not been able to get on the bike for two weeks now. He's like a caged tiger, needing a jungle. Until his back is better, he's going to be stuck. So somehow, he's going to have to find a way out of the emotional state he's got himself into, before there's a massive explosion. 

I was at the end of my rope last night when he turned down dinner. It's been an effort to cook - I love cooking, so it says much about MY emotional headspace that it's been an effort - and having him then decide not to eat is hard to take. So, I told him that I wasn't feeling good about it. Described MY feelings. Made no accusations. But, he took it as criticism. And has been sulking ever since. Hence my big long vent in this post, because I have to get it out of my system. Because my blood pressure is clearly off, because I've had the shakes ever since I had my coffee this morning. I'm teary. I'm frustrated. And truth be told, I'm lonely. Back in my single days, I was often lonely - which you'd expect, being alone. Lonely IN a relationship is so much worse. 

So, I went shopping after having my coffee. Bought some red cabbage and have experimented with a quick pickle. He loves pickled things, and pickled cabbage is his latest thing, so I thought I'd have a go making it myself. And I bought apples. For a pie. Because it's his favourite thing in the world. And yes, the object of the exercise is to guilt him into realising he's being a prick, and it's time he pulled his head in and started behaving like a decent human being again. It's dirty pool, but right now, it's all I've got.


  1. Wow that's an amazingly hard patch to go through Dragon Mum. The red cabbage & apple pie sounds awesome. Things will get better but unfortunately it seems slow to happen at times. Hang in there! Sending love& hugs xxx

    1. Yeah, it's frustrating. I keep telling myself it will pass. Through gritted teeth, maybe! The cabbage should be good by now, and the pie is in the oven. He's home now and has noticed neither! Hugs always most welcome - back atcha! xx

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  3. As Sheryl says, this too shall pass. Meaning in about 4 days. Of course that is my total attention span. I love my bicycle but not to the same degree as Dragon Dad. My rides last about 13 KM. I suspect that this thing might last a bit longer than 4 days.

    The cabbage looks amazing.

    1. LOL, Rick. Four days I could have coped with. This is going rather longer. There are other underlying things causing the stress and bad behaviour - the injury was the last straw. And of course, not being able to train is just exacerbating everything.
      I've not tried the cabbage - not really my thing. But the pie is good :-)

  4. Ah, the stubbornness of men. This so perfectly illustrates the behaviour of someone who wants his worst preconceptions fulfilled. So instead of going to the kind of health professional recommended by his partner, who has what might be called excessive experience with such individuals, he picks a place/person that is guaranteed to give him a bad experience. Sigh…
    On another note, did I ever tell you about my sure-fire regimen for the sinus crap that comes with Biologics? Lots of pineapple juice, garlic, and water (not necessarily together). Water dilutes the crap in your sinuses, pineapple juice has both vitamin C and an anti-inflammatory enzyme, reducing the swelling of the sinuses so the gunk can drain, and garlic is antibacterial. I haven’t had to have antibiotics for sinus infections for about nine years because of this.

    1. Well's a particular breed of stubborn too...

      On the congestion stuff... You know all that stuff about really listening to your cravings? I've been craving pineapple juice - to the point that I bought some and have been guzzling it down. Didn't know it had those properties, and will stop feeling guilty about drinking juice now! Already eat humungous amounts of garlic on a regular basis, so will continue that, and will add water - because I know I don't drink enough plain water - many thanks, my friend :-)