Interviewing With A Chronic Illness

interview_iconA few weeks ago, Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy wrote about a stressful period that he encountered in response to the possibility of upcoming in-person interview. (Good Lists Versus Bad Lists) Part of the anxiety resulted from the fact that would be one of the first times in which my disability would be a visible part of my professional self.

That interview did not move forward…but I am happy to share that this morning, I did have an in-person interview for another (much more interesting) job lead. I have been much busier than usual lately, so I didn’t even have time to fret about things like my crutches, about if/how to talk about my rheumatoid arthritis, etc. I just showed up as I am, and presented my normal self. It seems that things went really well.

And the oddest past of having wondered so much in the past on how to incorporate the presence of chronic illness in my professional life was the fact that upon sharing that I lived with rheumatoid arthritis, the man with whom I was speaking shared with me that he had recently been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. We even swapped stories about physical therapy. It’s funny how things work out in the end.

Immediately after my interview I went to my dentist’s office for a drop-in visit. (Yet another pleasure of receiving health care outside of the United States – not only did I drop in without calling, but I was in the dentists’s chair ten minutes later, and fifteen minutes after that I was on my way home.) When I was brushing my teeth this morning I noticed that one of my rear teeth had broken. Luckily, the crack was somewhat superficial and was no where close to the root.

Just another reminder of the importance of dental hygiene…which for me personally is usually placed on the back burner whenever I am dealing with RA flares.

So for anyone who might have been a little concerned about the absence of a post earlier today, please be assured that is was only due to good reasons, and had nothing to do with the flares that I have been experiencing recently in my hands and in my feet. In fact, my hands are doing much better than they were just a week or two ago.

All in all, it was a wonderful morning…even including my unplanned visit with my dentist!

Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!

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Getting Better

“Happiness is not the absence of problems but the ability to deal with them.” -Unknown

writing1Yesterday, Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy removed all of the books from the shelves in his home office. (Operation Repaint Office slowly continues to move forward!) During this process, I came across a journal that I had forgotten about. I had not read the words in this book since I wrote them a few years back.

A little bit of background. I had been living with rheumatoid arthritis for a few years, although I did not know this to be the case for certain. I had already gone through multiple extended periods where I was losing the use of my left knee. The pain continued to get worse by the week. When I wrote this entry, I had already visited my first rheumatologist, and we were getting closer to my final diagnosis.

I can still remember both my happiness and sadness when I wrote these words.

On one hand, I was finally making a big step forward. After so many years, it finally seemed like figuring out what was going on was within reach. On the other hand, I was still struggling with my denial – so much so that I hid this journal behind a stack of books as soon as I wrote this journal entry. (This is the one and only entry in this journal.)

June 26, 2006

I am sick. Until now, I don’ think I had actually actually admitted that I was sick. I knew that something was wrong and that I didn’t feel well, but I hadn’t accepted the root premise that I have an illness. Now that I have done so and with a final diagnosis soon to be received, I can now work on getting better. I must accept that the future will have ups and downs. I can begin to distinguish my symptoms under pain and fatigue, and begin to understand my symptoms a little better and begin to stop the suffering caused by confusion. Today is my first day of making myself feel better, both physically and emotionally.

It’s sort of funny that I stumbled across this journal entry yesterday, because recently I have been thinking a lot about what it means to get better – especially when living with a chronic illness. What does it mean to get better? Thanks to reading this old entry, I have begun to realize that getting better means a lot of different things at a lot of different times.

In the years preceding the above entry, before I was even able to accept the fact that I was sick, getting better used to mean only one thing to me: do not accept the fact that something is wrong with my body. Sort of like the logic tests we used to take as kids, it went something like this. 1. My body hurts…might something be wrong? 2. No, nothing is wrong with my body…I am not sick. 3. Everything is okay, as long as I don’t accept that I am sick.

I am better!

Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, I can see how ineffective and counterproductive that thought pattern was, especially as my symptoms gradually got worse. But you know what? I own this period in my life, and even though I was in almost complete denial of my illness, this represented the first step forward on my road to acceptance.

During the second major stage of my life with rheumatoid arthritis, I had finally overcome of of the biggest hurdles – I accepted the fact that I was living with a chronic illness. With the final diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis that I received a few days after writing the words above, there was no going back to that initial stage of denial. I have RA, and I have to learn to live with it. Up until a few months ago, my new concept of getting better meant one thing: get rid of the symptoms (i.e. go into remission).

I can begin to see a pattern here. While I had accepted the fact that I had rheumatoid arthritis, I still had not fully accepted what this meant for my life at the present and for my life going forward.

For years, I operated on the premise that if I did absolutely everything necessary in order to take care of myself, that my rheumatoid arthritis would go into remission and that life as I knew it before RA would come back. The time between flares when I had no disease activity could last for months. (I even had one period that lasted almost a year.) I was in heaven! If this is what living with rheumatoid arthritis is like, it’s not that bad. Better yet, during 90% of the time I would actually return to a state of semi-denial, and pretend that I didn’t have RA.

I am better!

During the last year, which I consider my third major stage of living with rheumatoid arthritis, things flipped around almost completely. Instead of being good 90% of the time, I now actually felt bad 90% of the time. As bad as things actually got, I still would find myself holding on to a little bit of denial. With full-blown symptoms and mobility problems, one can wonder how much denial can actually be held on to. Quite a bit actually. In my case, it was denial of how much pain my body was actually in. I knew I was in pain, but I still could not wrap my mind about how bad things actually were.

It has been during the past few months in which I have begun to focus on my emotional ups and downs, in addition to my physical ups and downs. It’s funny in a way…the closing line of my journal entry from a few years ago states as much: “Today is my first day of making myself feel better, both physically and emotionally.” I think I have been doing so during the past few years, but my emphasis was always on the physical. Now, I give my emotional self equal time to hurt and to heal. Doing so has allowed me to become a more balanced individual. This has also given me a lot of inner strength as I continue to move forward.

I am better!

Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!

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Arthritis Kitchen

Arthritis KitchenThe Arthritis Kitchen Blog

I have Rheumatoid Arthritis – RA,  and have had this disease for over 30 years.  The main joints that have been affected are my knees.  Recently, my RA has moved aggressively into my feet, right elbow and shoulder.

After consultation with my Rheumatologist we chose Gold Injections as the course of treatment for this latest flare.

I have been adapting my cooking and finding ways to incorporate foods and ingredients that may help reduce Arthritis  pain and inflammation.

I will be blogging on these subjects as a way to keep track of my progress and share my experiences along this journey.

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Rheumatoid Arthritis And The Flu

While Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy is moving into a warmer season, he knows that most of you are heading into autumn and winter. In addition to the leaves changing colors and pumpkin spice coffee being served in every coffee shop, the colder weather also brings in increased risk of getting a cold or a flu. (And let’s not even get started on what it does to arthritic joints.)

A few days ago, Stephanie left the following comment on Rheumatoid Guy’s Facebook fan page.

I had a question, do you get flu shots? And are you going to get the swine flu shot? I never get them but now with all the immune suppressing drugs we all take , I wanted to get others feedback on what their doctor or how they personally felt about getting a flu shot.

I have not taken flu vaccinations of any type…but I might just be in the minority.

I would recommend taking a look at the following links. Jo-Ann Colburn from LivingRheum has collected and continues to collect a lot of great information on the topic of rheumatoid arthritis and the flu. (This is also a great resource for many other issues related to rheumatoid arthritis.)

LivingRheum Avatar
LivingRheum
Rheumatoid Arthritis Resources for Living with RA

Autoimmune Diseases and Flu Season: H1N1 (Swine Flu) and Seasonal Flu

Swine Flu and Autoimmune Diseases

If you live in the UK, you might also be interested in signing the following petition.

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Fund GP’s to make available flu vaccinations for Rheumatoid Arthritis Sufferers.

Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic auto-immune disease. Sufferers are not currently entitled to a free flu vaccination if they are under retirement age. After retirement age they are called in automatically and funded.

Doctors do not stock enough vaccine to provide their rheumatoid patients with a vaccination as the vaccines are government funded.

This also applies to receipt of the swine flu vaccine when available.

This petition is particularly relevant to anyone who takes prescription drugs to control their rheumatoid arthritis.

As a group with an auto-immune disease we should be treated the same as other groups with auto-immune diseases who are entitled to the vaccination.

More Info: http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/fluvaccinations/#detail.

Want some tips on how to stay warm during the winter? Check out My Own Personal Kryptonite.

Here’s wishing everyone a flu-free future!

Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!

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Sunday Break

Because there is no such thing as taking too many breaks!

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OliverThis is Oliver, our pug. At just a little over a year and a half old, he is the youngest of our three dogs.

He is a character – he loves to wedge himself behind the cushions on the couch…and then fall asleep. This is our first pug, but by now we are quite used to the snoring, gasping, snorting, and all of the other sounds that come out of such a small package.

Oliver has become my shadow…wherever I am, he can usually be found close by. On the mornings when I get out of bed late because of my rheumatoid arthritis, he is always waiting by my side, his face full of eagerness to see me start my day.

In the future, I will also introduce Lily (an 11 year old Cairn Terrier) and Alva (a 6 year old Chihuahua/Terrier rescue dog). With these three dogs, life around the house – even on my worst days – is never boring!

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Yes, I downloaded The Lost Symbol when it was released this past Tuesday. (Digital book readers are a lifesaver when living in a country where English books are hard to find.) I am about two-thirds of the way through, and hope to finish today!

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During my various Prednisone tapers in the last few months I have been determined to not gain weight, or to gain as little weight as possible. So far I have been successful. On top of the loss of five pounds that I shared a few weeks back, I have since lost almost another ten pounds…for a running total of almost fifteen pounds! (My secret: Ditch the salty and sweet snacks, and instead snack on lots of jello and fruit.)

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Yesterday we enjoyed a loaf of homemade sweet bread with coconut and mango – the recipe was from one of our favorite Thai cookbooks. The pieces of fresh-cut mango floating throughout the bread were delicious!

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Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!

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