Polymyalgia rheumatica

This time last year we were starting out on our Lycian cruise on a Turkish gulet and I’ve been thinking how much I envy this year’s group – just beginning to enjoy it.

If you remember, I was suffering from extreme stiffness and pain around my waist, hips and thighs before we left London. I had been to the physiotherapist without success. It was as if I was a stick – with no flexibility from the waist down. A strong mix of paracetemol and codeine kept me going and since we didn’t need socks on board – it’s such a joy being in bare feet on wooden boards warmed by the sun – I didn’t have the problem of putting them on. Before we left home, the only way was to lie on the bed and struggle to reach my feet, which was time consuming and utterly infuriating. Like a beetle must feel on its back, legs flailing … But thank goodness I made the decision to go to Turkey rather than languish at home. It was interesting to find I could swim with no problem – the sea was salty and buoyant and this seemed to have the effect of freeing up my legs and back. Odd, nevertheless …

The doctor hadn’t been sure of what I was suffering from but when I got home with no improvement in the stiffness, she successfully diagnosed ‘polymyalgia rheumatica’, which the medical establishment think could be an auto immune problem. However, the cause is not known. There is pain, extreme stiffness and tenderness in large muscles and it mainly affects people over the age of sixty-five. Women are more likely to suffer from it than men. The muscles in your shoulders and arms can also be affected.

The doctor put me on steroids. Miracle cure! Within twenty four hours I could bend and move without pain. It was really unbelievable. Blood tests showed high sedimentation in my blood. Since then and for almost a year now on steroids, my sedimentation rate has plummeted and continued to fall on a regular basis. I am now on a low dosage of steroids and the doctor hopes that I will be able to stop them completely in about six months, should all continue well with the blood tests.

Since this happened, I have met two people with the same problem. A man and a woman. It’s a debilitating condition but, as my doctor says, rather a satisfying one for the medics, as when diagnosed, taking steroids results in the ‘take up your bed and walk’ syndrome, the result being miraculous within twenty four hours. The downside is that you need to keep taking steroids for some time but the disease then often burns itself out . In some cases, this doesn’t happen but being on a continuing low dose of steroids is much better than the alternative of being as inflexible as a ramrod and suffering with it. An image of the ‘Minister for Silly Walks’ comes to mind.

Amazingly, I did in some way manage to cope with it on the gulet. That was one of the best adventures and I would love to do it all over again.

A mysterious malady resolved ...

A mysterious malady resolved …


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