I'm feeling a bit sorry for myself and if you'll allow me, I'm going to take my time, open up and share my story with you, if for nothing else, just to get it off my own chest.
So, just a bit of background to start off, I'm a 28 year old professional muso. Bass is all I've ever really known. I studied it at uni from 18-22, played in wedding bands for 5 years and for the last 5 years, I've played on cruise ships. I work around 7 months onboard, have two months off. Repeat. I've had pain in the balls of my feet for 5 years which has only been getting worse. Trying to get any sort of treatment is a nightmare because I'm never home for any period of time.
At the end of September last year, I started feeling a bit of pain in the knuckle of my first finger on my right hand (I'm right handed) when I played. Over a week or two, the pain got progressively worse daily to the point where I couldn't practice and I just pulled up my big boy pants to go and gig and play through the pain. On cruise ships, you can often be the only bass player onboard. It's really not an option to sit a night out and I never want to let my team down, so I just got on with it and I only had around three weeks left at the end of my contract, so just playing through the pain until I got home was pretty much my only option. The pain worsened and worsened and eventually I got great playing with only my middle finger and using 1st finger only when totally necessary. Everything about my knuckle was painful in the end when it was being used. Handshakes, chopping vegetables, gripping anything at all, holding a pen, using my phone, etc etc.
So, I saw through the last few weeks onboard and saw my GP when I got home. She said she'd refer me to a rheumatologist, though, that may take up to 20 weeks to get a referral.
I had October, November, December at home with no word from the NHS about a referral for my hand (and feet). I hadn't touched a bass in that time, I still had a little pain but it had gone right down. I was starting to run out of cash and I got a call from my agent in January asking if I wanted a two month gig on a ship. I played my bass for a couple of days and my hand felt OK, so I agreed to said gig. I practiced lightly on the lead up to the deployment to make sure I still had some chops and I went back to sea.
I was onboard for two weeks and I was back to playing with only one finger. I went to see the doc. She gave me some anti inflams and sent me on my way. I went back to see her again a week later, she signed me off duty for a week to see if rest and drugs would work. It didn't. I got sent home from that ship and I went back to my GP, demanding to see someone. They referred me to orthopaedics. Around 8 weeks later, I saw a physiotherapist there for an assessment. In those 8 weeks, I'd begun to develop pain in my hips too that flared up most in the mornings. He suggested that it sounds like very early onset osteoarthritis that is accelerating at an alarming rate, for no apparent reason (I'm otherwise healthy and not overweight etc) but isn't an expert in that field, so it's just speculation. He reckoned it should be a rheumatologist I see, so referred me there. I've since received an appointment for the rheumatologist in mid June.
And that's pretty much where I'm at just now. I just feel pretty useless at the moment. All I really want to do is play my effing bass. I want working limbs that should be able to do all that they're supposed to do. I miss playing. I miss playing with people.
At the moment, on the speculation of the physiotherapist, I've kind of resigned to the fact I may well have arthritis that may just get worse as time goes on and that if I can't play a bass right now, maybe I never will. There's just so much uncertainty surrounding everything at the moment. I wish it didn't take so much time to get things done on the NHS.
Oh yeah, I'm jobless again, running out of money again with no means to earn any at the moment. Cruise ships were great employment because you really could just be a nomad, live on the ship, regather yourself at home for a few weeks then back to it again. I'm now looking at getting my derrière in gear, and it really wasn't part of the 5 year plan. I'm just a bit lost at the moment I guess.