Brad Carlson

RA Guy Real Profiles of RA

Real Profiles of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Photos © Brad Carlson


Brad Carlson


I am 46 years old.


My wife and I live in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, United States.

How long have you lived with RA?

I have had severe pain on and off for at least 7 years. I went to Orthopaedic docs, Podiatrists, GPs, and was always told I had OA or it was just from working too much. I used to be a store manager for a department store chain. I once wore surgical boots for 8 weeks to “stabilize” my feet. I was always given a brace and some pai meds and sent on my way. Two years ago I awoke to my wrists swollen to twice their size. I went to the ER and was put in a cast and referred to a orthopedic doctor yet again. This time I was put through a battery of bloodwork, xrays and mris, then referred to a Rhuematologist. I finally had a dx! RA, PA, Sjogrens and Psoriasis. Since then I have also developed Diabetes from the high dose of Pred I am on as well as Addisons. I also have high BP, and COPD.

What advice would you give to someone who has just been diagnosed with RA?

To someone newly diagnosed I would say that knowledge and support are everything. Make sure you are getting answers to the questions you have from your doctor. Research the internet and join support groups. You can feel VERY alone when you get a dx like this, it effectively changes your life, like it or not. You are not alone, there are many people out there in the same boat as you. Connect with them and share your fears, your knowledge, just connect, it will help a great deal. Get copies of your blood-work and research those as well, I wanted to know all there was to know about what I had, it made it easier to cope with. Depression is very common for people with autoimmune diseases, do not try to just block your feelings, If you think you are depressed, talk to your doctor. I take Zoloft myself for depression.

Do you use any mobility aids?

I use canes in my woodshop, forearm crutches in the house and a Power Wheelchair for any sort of distance or going outside. I had special shoes made by an orthotic doc that fit my feet exactly. I use Knorks (half knife, half fork) and wide handled cooking instruments. I have several pick up tools and aids for getting dressed. I have hand braces to stop my fingers from curling up at night. I also have a recliner that will stand me up when I need to get up. If it helps, USE it! Parking placards, wheelchairs, power chairs or scooters may seem an embarrassment to use. Once you find how much pain they will save you, you will not think twice about using them!

How has living with RA helped to improve your life?

I would say living with RA positively affected my life by slowing me down. I worked 80 hr weeks and commuted 3 hrs round trip a day. I am now on Long Term Disability and SSDI. My wife and I spend much more time together, and I have learned to appreciate the small things in life much more. I have also found many great people online through Rhuemamisfits and My RA central that have become great friends.

Do you have any visible signs of RA?

My hands are always swollen, red and several fingers are twisting. My ankles and feet are constantly swollen and red, and my feet are twisting sideways. I continue to find ways to do the things I love to do. RA will change you, but it doesn’t have to stop you!

Can you please describe some of your favorite coping strategies for living with RA?

My coping strategies, I pray. That always helps, God will not give you more than you can deal with. I also use online support groups, Rhuemamisfits, RA Central, etc. They can really help you to vent and to reach out to help others in the same situation. I also recently became a contributor for RA Central. Putting my experience to work to help others with this disease gives me a sense of purpose that I really needed.

Can you please describe your current medical (traditional and alternative) treatments?

Medical Treatments. I take Orencia once a month, Arava, Salagen, Morphine Sulphate, Oxycodone, Prednisone, Glucophage, Glucotrol, Potassium, Vit D3, Lipitor, Zoloft and a host of other meds. I also take OTC Folic Acid and Omega 3.

Is there anything else about yourself that you would like to share?

I have been an avid woodworker for over 20 years, and while I cannot do work like I once did, I am teaching myself to do small projects again. Currently I enjoy making simple toys for the neighborhood kids! Don’t give up on your life, find ways around the pain and keep yourself up!