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Vanessa V

Vanessa V

Real Profiles of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Real-Profile-V-Vanessa
Photos © Vanessa V

Name?

Vanessa V

Age?

32

Location?

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

How long have you lived with RA?

5 years, but first flare up was limited to just my knees. Took a year to diagnose them, and after 2 years on hydroxychloroquine, I was declared in remission, and stopped taking the meds. UNTIL April 2011, flare up came back with a vengeance. Started in my lower back, and spread everywhere. Knees, ankle, wrist, entire left arm, jaw, neck and lower back. An MRI wasn’t able to confirm AS, but I do a form of seronegative RA. I am currently waiting ridiculously long for my rheumatologist appointment, so I decided take matters into my own hands.  I am also not a huge fan of pharmaceuticals anyways. So while I wait for my appointment, I am reading as much I can and about 2 months ago decided to try diet and alternative therapies. I stopped eating all meat except organic salmon, no dairy, no processed food, no white flour, no refined sugar, no nightshade veggies (tomato, eggplant, peppers), no fried foods, no vinegar, no spicy foods. I keep a list of my fridge called the “Terrible” list, and whenever I eat something that causes a reaction, it goes on the list. Reactions happen as quickly as 10-24 hours now. I ate a cupcake at a bridal shower and couldn’t move my entire right hand for a week. (NO MORE CUPCAKES!) Basically I eat fruit, veggies, nuts, organic yeast free rye bread, salmon and occasionally eggs. I juice everyday and take a pretty big lot of supplements (even more than i usually take). Now don’t get me wrong. I LOVE food, but i decided that walking was a little more important. My diet doesn’t sound very exciting, but if it means my symptoms are easing up without drugs. I’m all in.  It took about 2 months, but i am 95% symptom free (bad days still exist, but not like they used to be), and am slowly starting back to my yoga practice, and even went for a run/walk last week. I’m not perfect, but I’m doing this DRUG free…for now.

What advice would you give to someone who has just been diagnosed with RA?

Be patient. Find kindred spirits. Twitter has been a great place for connect with others who understand what you’re going through. Its nice to not have to explain myself  whats wrong with me over and over.

Do you use any mobility aids?

I have a cane, that i use when my knees get really inflamed. I haven’t had to touch it in almost two months!

How has living with RA helped to improve your life?

I am so much more patient now. I appreciate little things. I’ve also developed a new understanding of how food affects the human body.

Do you have any visible signs of RA?

Just really inflamed knees at the peak of a flare up.. And lately since my diet has been changed, I mostly get compliments on how great I look. Ha!

Can you please describe some of your favorite coping strategies for living with RA?

Music. On a bad day, turn up the music, and just lay and take it in. Also my yoga practice has helped me focus and meditate when I need it. I am also not afraid to cry if I have to. Always feel better mentally after a good cry.

Can you please describe your current medical (traditional and alternative) treatments?

Diet and acupuncture. I was on Voltaren at the peak of this flare up, but DRUG FREE for almost 2 months.

Is there anything else about yourself that you would like to share?

Being this sick has really given me a new appreciation for my family (have been AMAZING), my yoga practice (Ashtanga yogi over 2 years now), my ability to run again (not for very long, but I’ll get there) and my friends (who have been equally as amazing). Stay strong, don’t be afraid to make changes in your life. You may not see the results right away, but they will come.

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Cathy Kramer

Cathy Kramer

Real Profiles of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Real-Profile-Kramer-Cathy
Photos © Cathy Kramer

Name?

Cathy Kramer

Age?

42

Location?

Chicago, Illinois, United States

How long have you lived with RA?

January 2004-present

What advice would you give to someone who has just been diagnosed with RA?

Educate yourself and then figure out a path that is right for YOU. Find not only friends in the RA community, but also outside it, that support the path you have chosen for yourself. Find health professionals that support your choices. Don’t be afraid of meltdowns. Be good to yourself. Try new things. Listen to your body. Don’t stop moving!

Do you use any mobility aids?

I don’t use mobility aids, however, I generally have someone near me and have LOTS of help.

How has living with RA helped to improve your life?

Life with rheumatoid arthritis is not easy. Each day is a mystery as to how I will feel. However, living with RA has given me the gift of finding my own personal strength. I have learned that some days I need to let go of the control I want to have over RA and by doing so I actually gain more control over me. I know my strengths and have built on my weaknesses. I have learned to ask for help and how to accept it. I have learned to share my needs. I have met the most amazing people. Some may say that RA has taken a lot from me, but I like to think that in the process of dealing with RA, I have received more than it has taken and for that I am thankful.

Do you have any visible signs of RA?

I have been very fortunate in that I don’t have any visible signs of RA except a limp that comes and goes. I do have some concerns about my knee and we will have to see where it is when all the swelling finally leaves, but so far so good.

Can you please describe some of your favorite coping strategies for living with RA?

Each day I remind myself of all the good in my life – there is a lot. I remind myself that “my body is healing” and I believe it. I cry when I need to and don’t feel guilty about it. Most importantly, I surround myself with positive/supportive people.

Can you please describe your current medical (traditional and alternative) treatments?

I have been medication free for almost two years. This is the path that feels right for ME. I believe in alternative medicine. I am currently using probiotics, digestive enzymes, homeopathy, fish oil/hemp oil, detoxing my body, and following The Body Ecology Diet.

Is there anything else about yourself that you would like to share?

I am a proud momma to 13 year old Alexander and 11 year old Sophia. I have also been married to my best friend Steve for the last 21 years. Together my family and I enjoy life with our three year old border collie, bike riding, homeschooling, TV/movies, nature, and more.

Individually I am somewhat of a natural girl – I love natural hair color, cosmetics that are safe on our skin, whole foods, farmers markets, natural remedies, rainstorms, watching people, and more. I am a daughter, sister and friend. I enjoy teaching English as a Second Language to adults, organizing events for our homeschooling group, spending time with friends, reading in quiet places, time alone, and exercising (yoga, bike riding, light weights, walking).

I think of myself as a positive person and allow that to guide me through the rough days and the easy days.

Cathy blogs regularly at The Life and Adventures of Cateepoo.

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