My rheumatoid arthritis story started In January 2012. I woke up one morning, stepped out of bed, and could not put weight on my foot; it felt broken. I took some time wiggling it and flexing until I could walk but I was in serious pain. When it went away the next day, I shrugged it off as a shoe issue.
I used to love cute heels and didn’t mind sacrificing function for fashion. But when I started running a fever with no cause and the pain kept moving through my body, alternating sides and locations, I knew it wasn’t my shoes. I set up an appointment with my prime care physician not knowing my world was about to change.
After discussing my symptoms and a thorough examination, my doctor said, “This could be as simple as a vitamin B12 deficiency, or as complicated as rheumatoid arthritis. But whatever it is, we are going to figure it out as soon as possible.”
After many vials of blood, which revealed a very high positive RH factor and off the chart anti-CCP levels, and a series of X-rays that revealed the joint damage had already begun, I received a life-changing diagnosis: rheumatoid arthritis. I was 40 years old and my daughter, an only child, was only four.
My RA is considered severe and aggressive so thankfully, my doctor took an aggressive approach as well. I was put on biologics immediately and started feeling better relatively quickly but I wanted to do as much as possible to stay well and active.
Managing my Rheumatoid Arthritis Disease Activity
I did my research and realized I could help make living well with this disease possible by making several lifestyle changes: adapting a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet, limiting my exposure to environmental toxins, trying to sleep more, and do my best to minimize stress as much as possible. Stress is my biggest flare-inducer.
My Mindset Change
While I was very angry and bitter when first diagnosed, I am now grateful for the healthy changes it prompted in our lives. We are all benefiting, and I feel a little more in control of what can be such an unpredictable disease. It is pretty well-managed most of the time.
Nine years later. . .
I did leave my full-time teaching job this year because the stress was provoking too many flares and my quality of life was suffering: I was so tired and sick all the time that it seemed every part of my life was focused on just surviving my job. Nothing was left for my family at the end of the day. Thankfully, I do have another income stream and am able to work my business from home, so I am very grateful I started it two years ago. It is allowing me to thrive again.
My daughter is my “why” for everything and the reason I want to stay healthy and thrive. She says I am her hero. I know she looks to me as a model for how to navigate life- challenges and all, so I take care of myself, set boundaries, and stay as positive as possible, but I do not hide my disease.
My Advice to Fellow Rheumatoid Arthritis Warriors
Help people understand rather than hide your pain. Advocate for yourself and do not feel guilty when you need to take time for yourself or need help. Take care of yourself by eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, and moving as much as you are able. If you do, it is possible to only survive, but thrive.