Real Profiles of Rheumatoid ArthritisPhotos © Chad Fisher
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
How long have you lived with RA?
I was diagnosed with JRA at age 10; that was 30 years ago.
What advice would you give to someone who has just been diagnosed with RA?
It’s ok…actually it’s good to cry, but don’t dwell there. Stay as active as possible and don’t let people do everything for you. Fight to the last moment before giving up on an activity or action. The longer you can do it, the better. Yes, it will hurt, but the benefits will outweigh the pain in the long run. Disclaimer – use wisdom of course, everyone’s situation is different.
Do you use any mobility aids?
None. I am stubborn and refuse anything. My wife sometimes bugs me about using a cane, especially in winter. Not going to happen.
How has living with RA helped to improve your life?
Frankly it hasn’t. I don’t say this out of bitterness or anger, but I think it impossible to suggest a disease that steals life and brings pain as something I can compliment or suggest as an improvement to my life. I have had an opportunity to learn many things, but I didn’t need JRA for that. Let’s just say I have had 30 years to think about this. I have tried to put the whole positive spin on it and in integrity of heart I can’t. It doesn’t make any sense to suggest this has benefited my life.
Again, this is not out of bitterness or anger, and I realize many people who are newer on this journey may try to look for the silver lining, and I understand that. I am an eternal optimist, but my 30 years give me a lifelong perspective that is different. JRA is trying to destroy my body, and I my goal is to crush and destroy it by living life to the fullest. JRA, you are going down!
Do you have any visible signs of RA?
Yes, my fingers and knees have some deformation. I walk with a pronounced limp.
Can you please describe some of your favorite coping strategies for living with RA?
I refuse to give up or let this disease rob me of my life and happiness. I learnt from a young age that attitude is everything when fighting this disease. JRA can take my mobility and try to put me in pain, but it cannot have my attitude. I guess after so many years it has become ingrained in me to keep a healthy attitude, that it is now natural.
Helping others is also a key. Being a pastor I am involved in people’s lives, and I have realized (and not to minimize the pain of JRA) that sometimes emotional distress hurts a lot and may be just has hard to handle as physical pain. When I help someone hurting, it certainly gives me a lift. I would also add my faith has given me emotional strength.
Can you please describe your current medical (traditional and alternative) treatments?
I don’t take any medications outside of the occasional Ibuprofen. I grew up when treatments and technology were limited. Doctors and Rheumatologists, for the most part, prescribed me large doses of Tylenol and Aspirin. Due to this, I have learned to force my body to listen to me, and this is how I manage my pain. It has led me to prefer to live as medication free as possible. I realize this is not possible or appropriate for everyone.
I use diet, exercise, faith and attitude as my main treatments. I try to eat healthy and I exercise by walking on a treadmill and lifting weights. I maintain emotional strength through prayer and my faith.
Is there anything else about yourself that you would like to share?
I don’t have all the answers. I love people, and I hurt with those living with such a horrible disease. I want to use my experience to inspire others and let them know they can thrive and not just simply exist. Oh and being Canadian – I love hockey!
I have a blog, which can be seen at: www.livingwitharthritistoday.com.