Real Profiles of Rheumatoid ArthritisPhotos © Cammie Solis
50 years young.
Phoenix, Arizona, United States
How long have you lived with RA?
With an official diagnosis 4 years. However I had pain, stiffness and swelling at least 1-1/2 years prior to that.
What advice would you give to someone who has just been diagnosed with RA?
First and foremost do not panic. You have RA, it does not have you. It does not make you any less than you were before; It certainly does not define you. Then, take a deep breath and begin to find out all that you can about RA. Be an informed and empowered patient, it will make you a better advocate for yourself.
Also, listen to your body and find a doctor who listens to you and who values you as the most important stakeholder in your care.
Do you use any mobility aids?
It took me a long time to admit I needed it, but I have a cane that I use when I have need of it. I also use an electric can opener. I really need to find a good tool for opening jars though. It’s on my RA “wish list” I use a brace for my hands when they are acting up. A few months back I spontaneously damaged a tendon in my left thumb. (RA can do that.) I had to use a brace for a few weeks then.
How has living with RA helped to improve your life?
It has given me a greater awareness of just how precious every moment is. I take nothing for granted anymore. I want to make every moment count in a positive way. Even though it isn’t always easy I want to take even the bad moments and make something positive from them.
Having RA has helped me to slow down and to pay attention to things I might have otherwise missed because I was in such a hurry before. Those little daily graces that come into our lives and if we are speeding through we just might miss. Like listening to the the sweet sounds of the birds singing in the trees outside my window, hearing a symphony that is in the gentle rain fall, or the beauty of the sunrise as it dances across my bedroom in the morning and caresses my face telling me it is time to wake up, smile and give thanks for another day of life.
Do you have any visible signs of RA?
A couple of my knuckles have started to shift. I remember waking up one morning and my hands were stiff and swollen. I could see that the third finger on both hands was swollen looked different. I remember thinking this is it; my hands are going to be the first joints to be affected by this disease. RA has affected my gait. I don’t walk as I used too. My walk is off center.
Can you please describe some of your favorite coping strategies for living with RA?
My faith is the most important thing that helps me cope with my disease. It is a source of strength for me and if I didn’t have my faith to lean on I think I would be in worse shape than I am.
My family, my faith family, and my support groups are also very important to me. They are great sources of strength and support. I couldn’t make through my RA journey with out any of them.
Can you please describe your current medical (traditional and alternative) treatments?
Methotrexate, Humira, Folic Acid and Oxicontin.
Is there anything else about yourself that you would like to share?
When I am not in a flare I love to cook and bake. Being in the kitchen brings me such joy and pleasure. I love the wonderful smells that waft through the house and fill every nook and cranny. Reminds me of my childhood times in the kitchen with my mother and grandmother. I also love to sew and quilt, but have had to scale back since the fine motor it requires makes my hands ache after a short while. I love to spend time with my sons and our 2 dogs, Bandit and Chembow.