Real Profiles of Rheumatoid ArthritisPhotos © Erika Dawn Hodgson
Erika Dawn Hodgson
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
How long have you lived with RA?
I was officially diagnosed in January 2010, but have had joint swelling and issues for about 5-6 years.
What advice would you give to someone who has just been diagnosed with RA?
Ask your doctor for potential links to support networks as well. This was something I didn’t do in the beginning. I saw my Rheumatologist, received my diagnosis and then walked out with no information. I did my own research though, so being armed with the education, however you obtain it, is valuable.
Do you use any mobility aids?
When my knees were really really bad I would use a cane. Since medication though, I have had very few problems with the knees. When my elbows were at my worst I used my children as aids…running and getting me things etc…
How has living with RA helped to improve your life?
I am much more grateful for what I have in my life. I feel like I can teach my kids by example, to plod on in life through the difficult moments, because there are ALOT of them. I feel happier and more confident too, because when I started researching RA, I started educating myself about alot of issues and health concerns. I have other autoimmune diseases that are tricky and annoying and that affect my life (for instance, I have alopecia, so I am visibly different to most others) – and the RA has given me the opportunity to focus less on that and the other diseases, because in comparison, they really aren’t that horrible – and none of these things have ruined my life exactly.
Do you have any visible signs of RA?
When I flare my elbows look twice their size and I can’t bend or straighten them. They are big and red and hot and angry looking. The way I walk because of some damage in the knees and ankles is a sign, too.
Can you please describe some of your favorite coping strategies for living with RA?
Talking about my frustrations with people who care and want to listen. Educating myself more. Putting myself out there on message boards and resources like this to show people that life doesn’t have to be awful when you have RA or other diseases. When I accomplish more and more physically during the days too, it makes me feel good about myself, both like I have accomplished something kind of major in my world, but also knowing that I am setting a good example for the kids and my friends and family. I also focus on not feeling guilty on the days when I accomplish nothing but rest. Rest is good though, and needed.
Can you please describe your current medical (traditional and alternative) treatments?
Regular gentle exercise for starters, Methotrexate, Prednisone, Folic Acid, Ibuprofen, Losec and I try to get all my vitamins and calcium through diet because vitamin pills kill my tummy.
Is there anything else about yourself that you would like to share?
I’m a MOM of two first and foremost – my children are who make me want to continue on this path of education, happiness and contentment. I live with RA, Alopecia Areata Universalis, Chronic Uveitis that flares up often, Thyroid disfunction, a bulging disc in my back from years of walking funny and a recently diagnoised pulmonary embolism. Life is too short to focus on all of the negative things, and I say that I live with these disesases and I mean it. I live with them. They don’t run my life, they don’t define who I am, but they are my daily challenge in this life, and you know what? I feel like I am conquering mountains sometimes just by facing the day, and that feels good when I can function and feel contentment.