Real Profiles of Rheumatoid ArthritisPhotos © Kimberly Cooper
Fort Myers, Florida, United States
How long have you lived with RA?
I was diagnosed in March 2002 when I was 16, but spent about 1.5 years misdiagnosed as having Osteoarthritis.
What advice would you give to someone who has just been diagnosed with RA?
Don’t let the anger get to you. When I was first diagnosed I found myself in a mixture of confusion, anger and self loathing. I was angry at all the things I couldn’t do, and at people for being able to do simple things like walking and writing with ease.
Do you use any mobility aids?
I have a cane that I have to use, specifically with an ergonomic handle to ease on making my hand sore from lots of use.
How has living with RA helped to improve your life?
Having RA made me grow up and mature emotionally and mentally. While other high school kids were concerned about typical high school drama, I had to re-evaluate my entire life. It was a struggle, but I came out better for it, and with a greater respect for the joys that life has to offer!
Do you have any visible signs of RA?
My right elbow has completely fused, and as a result of the constant inflammation from when I was misdiagnosed, it caused either dislocation or mini-fractures that have warped my tibia and fibia (my friends call it my T-Rex arm). I hope to have a joint replacement and reconstructive surgery over this summer. I have large scars on my left foot because my left ankle had fused in a terrible position, so I had a surgery that essentially broke the joint and put pins in to ensure fusion so that my foot sits flat, called an Arthodesis. My surgeon also had to do an Midfoot Osteotomy to make my toes lie flat.
Can you please describe some of your favorite coping strategies for living with RA?
I talk to my loved ones about my pain level and any troubles I’m having, so that they are informed and can assist me when needed. I also stop myself when I’m feeling self-loathing or pitying myself, and instead find ways to show myself that I’m still useful. I also temper my pride, because I know that I can be bull-headed and it causes me pain and distress when I refuse to accept help.
Can you please describe your current medical (traditional and alternative) treatments?
I am currently on Methotrexate for my RA, and I’ve altered my diet because I found that too much red meat added to my inflammation.
Is there anything else about yourself that you would like to share?
I love to knit, which I find helps keep my wrists mobile, and through the support and encouragement of a great teacher in High School, I have had the dream of being a teacher since age 17. I have had some medical roadblocks, but I’ve finally gotten back into college to be a high school teacher!
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