Gout. That jarring word. I still hate saying it. It’s sharp, disconcerting, and uncomfortable – like ‘moist’ or ‘Trump.’ I’m 42 years old, hardly ancient, and I still attribute gout to being an old man’s ailment, not that of a relatively active middle-aged man (good god, I’m middle-aged). Gout is for the cranky miser whose children hate him and whose wife shakes her head at him all day.
Yet here I am, in the Prime of My Life, suffering from yet another installment of The Gout Files. It’s depressing.
Where do I begin?
Do I tell you I haven’t had a drop of alcohol in almost 5 months because of my last flare up(s), which I documented in my original post, Gout in Real Life? Do I describe how I’ve taken a completely different approach to food and cooking, leaning toward more healthy fare like lean chicken and vegetables? Do I tell you I drink enough water to fill a large swimming pool? How about my foray into exercise, where I’ve adopted a much more diligent approach to strength-training and weight loss? I’m on the appropriate medication (allopurinol), and I take anti-inflammatory medicine if I even begin to feel the slightest onset, which I haven’t in several months.
Basically, I have followed ALL THE RULES.
So what in the actual f*** gives?!?
I am lucky, I suppose. Being part of a Gout Support FaceBook page (yes, a gout support group, I didn’t make that up), I see there are people who have it much, much worse. The pictures they post – my god. Horrifying. Days and weeks of excruciating pain, pain I know all too well. I can, at least, be thankful that what I’m experiencing as I write this pales compared to what I went through several months ago.
That was simply the worst. It wasn’t just a flare up, which is bad enough, but a cluster of them. Both knees, my ankle, my wrist, elbow, and even my little finger. Yes, the joint in my little finger. I missed 3 months of work. Things you take for granted become a horrible ordeal: getting up, sitting down, sleeping and, yes, even going to the bathroom. Don’t get me started on wiping, you don’t want to know (but I’m sure you have an idea now that I’ve brought it up).
It was, at least, the catalyst for me to become a healthier, stronger person.
Being human, I do fall into the Why Me? trap. What could I have possibly done to deserve this? Why have I been doing all the right things, making all the right choices? Why not eat like a pig, drink like a fish, and kick exercising to the curb? Because, after all, the pain of this flare-up would be the same no matter how unhealthy I was. Why make all the sacrifices? Why BE GOOD?
I suppose I am partially to blame. I still eat chicken, which is high in purines (for the uninitiated, purines are metabolized into uric acid, the uric acid crystalizes and embeds itself into a joint, causing gout inflammation). Chicken does have the lowest purine count, but it’s still there. But I need protein, so it’s a sacrifice I need to make. The medication, I know, has been helpful these past few months. Cutting out alcohol has been beneficial as well. The exercising, too, has been extremely valuable, not only with weight loss, but with my strength.
The worst – and I’m sure my Gout Support Group friends would agree – is the appearance of what we’re going through. We come off as lazy and whiny. My partner has become so indifferent to my ailment he will literally walk right past me when I’m hobbling into the kitchen or struggling to get up off the couch. It’s discouraging. But we deal with it.
It could be worse, this I know. Yes, the pain of gout is the same whether I’m healthy or not, but I can take stock in knowing the flare-ups would be more prevalent if I hadn’t made all those changes listed above. This very flare up could be hellish or, worse, one of several. Fingers crossed this is not the case.
Look, I understand one crucial element in all of this: there is no cure for gout, just treatment. I can’t get rid of it, but I can keep it bay. That’s all I can really do at this point. That, and hopefully shed some light on the issue. Like rheumatoid arthritis, nerve pain, and tendonitis, gout deserves to have a little of the limelight. Not that it’s exactly something to celebrate.
Now excuse me while I limp to the kitchen to eat a damn salad and drink a gallon of water.