How long have you lived with RA?
It was officially diagnosed by a Rheumatologist a few months ago but I have been seeing doctors because of it for three years, and had symptoms before that.
What advice would you give to someone who has just been diagnosed with RA?
Umm, that’s me. The most helpful thing has been seeing a Chronic Illnesses Psychologist. She helped me put together strategies to accept this diagnosis. And not googling the condition and people’s negative stories too much. Also, I didn’t want to start on RA meds, but since taking them I’m now able to function in daily life again.
Do you use any mobility aids?
No. Well other than a wrist support, but that’s not really mobility aid.
How has living with RA helped to improve your life?
I’ve stepped out of the fast lane and am learning to appreciate the small things again. Having the time to just do nothing, read a book, hang out with my dogs, all on a regular basis, and knowing it’s actually being responsible, is nice. I work for myself as a photographer, and it has given me a deeper insight into how lovely photos for special memories can be. I’m also just starting to say ‘no’ to people, when it doesn’t suit me (something I’ve not always been very good at).
Do you have any visible signs of RA?
I don’t. During a flare, my fingers on my right hand don’t straighten and I might limp a little, but nothing permanent.
Can you please describe some of your favorite coping strategies for living with RA?
RA is an uninvited guest in my car (the metaphorical journey through life), and it’s okay for it to be journeying with me, making me take detours, going at slow speeds etc, but I am always driving this car…I am ultimately in charge and I call the shots, not RA. There is room for fear and grief and acceptance, but I’m still the boss of this situation. I’m originally from Zimbabwe, and have lived in five different countries. My parents live in the UK, and my brother is in South Africa, and I don’t have many relatives or my long-time friends living nearby. My husband has been very supportive, and I go out of my way to gently educate him on this condition, and show him my gratitude. My new friends, and my medical team…I think I’ve picked them well, they’re a constant cheer of support and are really lovely people. Plus my dogs, they’re just slobberly unconditional love, and very good personal trainers with long walks and beach time. Also a few days after diagnosis, I made a basic bucket list of things I want to do whilst I can still physically enjoy them. One of them was to road-trip around Australia for a while…and this week I bought an old caravan for my hubby and I to renovate and then hit the road with our dogs. Life isn’t that serious…health, money, status, etc, it can appear and disappear so fast…focus on making your dreams a reality. I love writing, so I blog about having RA – http://www.swirlinnoosa.rocks/.
Can you please describe your current medical (traditional and alternative) treatments?
Plaquenil, prednisone, meloxicam, curcumin, multi-vitamins. I have a loosely ayurvedic (gluten and sugar free) meal plan that I stick to, most of the time, though inorder to be sociable sometimes I’m naughty. Diet definitely plays a big role…confirmed the day after my cheat days :/ I try to walk a few kilometres or swim on days that’s it’s physically possible. Plus I’ve started doing daily meditations, and am now studying to be an accredited energy healer.
Is there anything else about yourself that you would like to share?
Remember who you were…try not to be a victim by letting RA become your whole life. And try not to let media feel like you’re failing when it portrays that a healthy diet or positive mindset can heal everything. e’re human, and disease is a natural thing… some people are given higher mountains to climb, and if done so with a good attitude, the view will just get better and better. There’s a creative challenge in every tough situation. Always try find the ‘light’.