Real Profiles of Rheumatoid ArthritisPhotos © Jolene Gatmaitan
Quezon City, Philippines
How long have you lived with RA?
Symptoms started when I was 11 years old, but I was officially diagnosed 2 years ago (2010). Almost 14 years.
What advice would you give to someone who has just been diagnosed with RA?
Breathe. It’s not easy to take it all in, especially when you’re diagnosed at a young age. Surround yourself with family and friends, psychosocial support helps big time! Also, communicate with your doctors and other health personnels. Ask questions, options and always relay your concerns.
Do you use any mobility aids?
Both my wrists are involved so I have wrist splints worn during flares.
How has living with RA helped to improve your life?
I’m almost in my last year of medical school and it’s not easy taking care of other people when you can’t even take care of yourself. It’s not helping to read and learn of the future disease complications either! But, having this disease made me more compassionate and emphatic towards my patients because I have an idea how chronic pain feels like. I learned to appreciate my life more, as there are others who are suffering a great deal of pain– worse than what I have.
Do you have any visible signs of RA?
I have difficulty extending and flexing both my wrists, both starting to show ulnar deviation. My left index finger looks like a small sausage.
Can you please describe some of your favorite coping strategies for living with RA?
I spend time with my boyfriend, close friends and of course my family. They distract me from the pain. I also talk to God about having RA, it’s cathartic. Most times, I sleep, hoping the pain will be gone when I wake up.
Can you please describe your current medical (traditional and alternative) treatments?
I’m currently on Hydroxychloroquine, Methotrexate, Folic Acid and pain meds (Celecoxib, Etoricoxib). I was on Tocilizumab therapy 2 years ago for 6 doses. I have also tried Acupuncture and Yoga as forms of treatment. I had steroid injections on both my knees some months ago due to effusion I was not even aware of!
Is there anything else about yourself that you would like to share?
The pain sucks big time. But you’ll eventually learn how to deal with it. It’s all right to feel depressed. Just don’t forget that, like most things in life, “this too shall pass.”