It was at around Keppel’s Hut, during our last week on the trail that I knew something was seriously wrong.
A few days before, MY fingers had started to cramp up and ache. At the time, I put it down to the cold mornings and overuse. As anyone on the BNT would know, your hands and fingers get an absolute hammering. All day long you are tying ropes, undoing straps, adjusting buckles, fiddling with tent pegs and lead ropes.
But when I opened the door of Keppels Hut, my fingers suddenly felt as though they were about 100 years old , and a shooting pain bore through my hand. I knew something more sinister than trail-weariness was at play.
So when I came into phone coverage and Googled my symptoms (always a good recipe for a stress attack), all the signs pointed to Rheumatoid Arthritis.
‘No!’, I thought in despair. ‘Im still young!’, although didn’t really feel it at the time. But rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disease that can apparently affect even children.
“Please, body! Anything but this…” Everything I loved to do involved the use of my hands- riding, writing, craft, drawing, guitar. Arthritis would be my worst nightmare.
All my life I had been blessed with optimal health, and now finally I too had been cut down with health worries. Deep down, I knew it was my body’s way of retaliation. This was payback for abusing it, ignoring it and pushing it to the extreme for the last few weeks.
So the aching got worse and I put up with it for the next few weeks- moved house, made some shoes, picked up potatoes, my aching fingers reminding me all the while that I had this insidious disease growing in my hands. I just KNEW. Oh well, I thought, trying to be positive. At least I still have all my limbs. At least I’m still alive. At least it’s me and not Z.
After a month, I decided it was time to confirm my worst fears on a piece of paper via the doctor. When he looked at me with sympathy, said it could well be arthritis and recommended a blood test, I JUST KNEW.
“The doctor will call you if there’s anything from the results to discuss”, the nice lady at the pathologist informed me.
And sure enough, four days later, I was called back in. And we all know what that means. I JUST KNEW.
So when the doctor gave me his best sympathetic look and told me he had some unfortunate news, I simply said, “Its OK, I know. It’s arthritis, isn’t it?”.
“Uh, no. You don’t have arthritis.”
“Are you sure?”, I asked, baffled. All my fish-oily plans for my medication-free arthritis life were rapidly slipping away.
“Actually, you have Ross River Virus”.
Ross Rover Virus? Well, well, well. I was quickly informed that RRV is spread by mosquitoes from infected animals to humans and often results in fatigue, joint pain and muscle aches. It can last up to three years, but definitely not a lifetime.
Wonderful!! I thought. No rheumatoid arthritis then! I could have just about danced a jig in that little doctor’s office. He looked a little surprised at my ecstatic reaction, but on that day, I couldn’t have been happier to hear his ‘unfortunate news’. Frankly, after the amount of insect bites I endured on the BNT, it is a wonder I walked away with only one mosquito-borne disease.
Yay for Ross River Virus!