Real Profiles of Rheumatoid ArthritisPhotos © Vanessa V
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
How long have you lived with RA?
5 years, but first flare up was limited to just my knees. Took a year to diagnose them, and after 2 years on hydroxychloroquine, I was declared in remission, and stopped taking the meds. UNTIL April 2011, flare up came back with a vengeance. Started in my lower back, and spread everywhere. Knees, ankle, wrist, entire left arm, jaw, neck and lower back. An MRI wasn’t able to confirm AS, but I do a form of seronegative RA. I am currently waiting ridiculously long for my rheumatologist appointment, so I decided take matters into my own hands. I am also not a huge fan of pharmaceuticals anyways. So while I wait for my appointment, I am reading as much I can and about 2 months ago decided to try diet and alternative therapies. I stopped eating all meat except organic salmon, no dairy, no processed food, no white flour, no refined sugar, no nightshade veggies (tomato, eggplant, peppers), no fried foods, no vinegar, no spicy foods. I keep a list of my fridge called the “Terrible” list, and whenever I eat something that causes a reaction, it goes on the list. Reactions happen as quickly as 10-24 hours now. I ate a cupcake at a bridal shower and couldn’t move my entire right hand for a week. (NO MORE CUPCAKES!) Basically I eat fruit, veggies, nuts, organic yeast free rye bread, salmon and occasionally eggs. I juice everyday and take a pretty big lot of supplements (even more than i usually take). Now don’t get me wrong. I LOVE food, but i decided that walking was a little more important. My diet doesn’t sound very exciting, but if it means my symptoms are easing up without drugs. I’m all in. It took about 2 months, but i am 95% symptom free (bad days still exist, but not like they used to be), and am slowly starting back to my yoga practice, and even went for a run/walk last week. I’m not perfect, but I’m doing this DRUG free…for now.
What advice would you give to someone who has just been diagnosed with RA?
Be patient. Find kindred spirits. Twitter has been a great place for connect with others who understand what you’re going through. Its nice to not have to explain myself whats wrong with me over and over.
Do you use any mobility aids?
I have a cane, that i use when my knees get really inflamed. I haven’t had to touch it in almost two months!
How has living with RA helped to improve your life?
I am so much more patient now. I appreciate little things. I’ve also developed a new understanding of how food affects the human body.
Do you have any visible signs of RA?
Just really inflamed knees at the peak of a flare up.. And lately since my diet has been changed, I mostly get compliments on how great I look. Ha!
Can you please describe some of your favorite coping strategies for living with RA?
Music. On a bad day, turn up the music, and just lay and take it in. Also my yoga practice has helped me focus and meditate when I need it. I am also not afraid to cry if I have to. Always feel better mentally after a good cry.
Can you please describe your current medical (traditional and alternative) treatments?
Diet and acupuncture. I was on Voltaren at the peak of this flare up, but DRUG FREE for almost 2 months.
Is there anything else about yourself that you would like to share?
Being this sick has really given me a new appreciation for my family (have been AMAZING), my yoga practice (Ashtanga yogi over 2 years now), my ability to run again (not for very long, but I’ll get there) and my friends (who have been equally as amazing). Stay strong, don’t be afraid to make changes in your life. You may not see the results right away, but they will come.