What advice would you give to someone who has just been diagnosed with RA?
First, I would tell anyone who is newly diagnosed to read everything you can about the disease and do not be afraid to ask questions. Second, find your support system- it may not be who you think it is so be open to what you may find. Third- You have a choice to make- you can either live with your disease or you can suffer from your disease. Take time to go through the stages of grieving and then be ready to move on to a new phase of your life. Your outlook and how you approach your disease and treatment makes all of the difference in the world.
Do you use any mobility aids?
Not at this time, but I have a full complement of wrist, knee and ankle braces to use when I need them.
How has living with RA helped to improve your life?
RA has changed my life completely- in a million good ways. Since being diagnosed my husband and I and my parents and I have become even closer. I have stopped being a complete workaholic and slowed down to a manageable workload giving me time to rest when I need rest and time to play outside of work. I have certainly become much more aware that my body is more than my years-long self esteem issues. That in itself has given me a measure of peace. Slowing down has been the best thing I have ever done outside of raising my child.
Do you have any visible signs of RA?
I am fortunate to have very few visible signs. My pinky fingers don’t straighten any longer, and neither they or my thumbs meet my rest of my hands if I try to straighten my hands. My toes are turning outward and I waddle when I walk. The more pain in my hips- the more I look like a Weeble!
Can you please describe some of your favorite coping strategies for living with RA?
First and foremost I count my blessings. With the exception of my RA and Fibromyalgia – I live a VERY blessed life. When I am feeling down, I start a list of the things I am grateful for in my life. I also have a blog where I share the journey of trying to live from a place of gratitude. It makes me really think about the good things in my life when I write it, and when I get comments on it, it helps to know that I am sharing my journey.
Additionally, I try to live from a positive place. Negativity and Drama can take over your life if you let them. It can be very difficult to be positive all the time, but I treat it like a challenge. When you are looking at things from a positive place- the “bad stuff” doesn’t seem so bad! It is hard to be sad/angry when you are smiling.
Can you please describe your current medical (traditional and alternative) treatments?
For the RA I take: 1cc of injectable Methotrexate every Sunday, 50mg Tramadol 3x a day, 1mg Folic Acid (we are upping it to 2 on my next refill) daily, 50mg Enbrel by Injection every Wednesday.
For the Fibro I also take Flexeril every night to help me sleep and I get massages every 8 weeks.
Is there anything else about yourself that you would like to share?
I am a mother, a daughter, a wife, a sister, a friend and an employee. I love to travel-road trips being my husbands and my favorite. I love to read a good book and usually have three or so going at any given time. I enjoy crafts and have found ways to modify my crafting to my abilities. One of my favorite things to do is to raise funds and walk for my causes. I have done 4 Avon Walk For Breast Cancer events (a full marathon each!) and this season two Arthritis Walks. That is a huge thing for someone who is not super athletic. I have also come to love the “sport” of geocaching. I enjoy pro football and baseball- I follow the New England Patriots and the Boston Red Sox like it’s my job.
I am also a bit of a techno-geek. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in and surfing the web at home or via my blackberry. I manage the website for my father’s churches and am my parent’s go-to girl for all things computer related. My favorite holiday is Halloween- it is just about the most fun you can have legally. One of the few things I miss about New England is dressing up on Halloween and spending the day/night in Salem, MA. I am bound and determined to go ghost-hunting one day as I am fascinated by all things “haunted”. I have a dog that I am just nuts about, Harley is my “fur-baby”.
I know that this is a lot of information about who I am- but the message here is; if you take nothing else from this piece- take away that RA cannot take any of these things from me. It can’t change who I am inside. It can make things more difficult for me, but I will find a way to do thing things I love. I only have one chance to live this life and RA or not- I am going to enjoy it!