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Jeff Reinke

Jeff Reinke

Real Profiles of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Photos © Jeff Reinke

Name?

Jeff Reinke

Age?

44

Location?

La Verne, California, United States

How long have you lived with RA?

I was diagnosed in 2008.

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

Get your support system together as soon as possible. Get a list of questions together to ask your Doctor and don’t feel pushed out of their office. To many times early in my visits I would feel rushed then as soon as I would get to my car I remembered a question that wasn’t answered.

Do you use any mobility aids?

No.

How has living with RA helped to improve your life?

Wow what a question, well I always get a great parking spot with my handicap Plaque. Seriously I guess I can say to slow down, I love to build projects in my garage. With my hands hurting I have to split my projects into smaller more achievable goals.

Do you have any visible signs of RA?

My fingers point in a couple different directions and swollen hands.

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

Laughter, Love and support of my family. And understanding that I define myself I will not let RA define me.

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

Plaqnil, Enbrel and I started a supplement routine in August with good results.

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

I work full time in the construction industry as a sales/tech rep. I have good and bad days but thanks to my two kids and my amazing bride of 20 years I’m a survivor. Together with knowledge and support you can get through it.

Jeff blogs at http://socalj.blogspot.com/.

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Tim

Tim

Real Profiles of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Photos © Tim

Name?

Tim

Age?

23

Location?

Coventry, United Kingdom

How long have you lived with RA?

16+ years.

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

Never let it get you down, I always find my mood and pain are somehow inter-related, so stiff upper lip as it were! Be pro-active and set yourself goals to work towards, discuss the right medications with for you with a specialist, see a nutritionist or get food allergy tests. For example 10 years ago I had things like ‘be able to open a soda bottle or car door’ now it’s things like ’2 years to train for a 32km run and about the same time to become a Jiu Jitsu instructor.’ Once one target is met, you can set a new target and although for some people the limit may be much more than mine, I would hope for someone that is freshly diagnosed with RA, they too might know that although it is hard work they can achieve a relatively normal life.

Do you use any mobility aids?

None!

How has living with RA helped to improve your life?

If I hadn’t have had a horrible debilitating auto-immune disease teach me to have mental and emotional strength, to cope with and be determined to get going when the going got tough, to stand up under massive strain and say “bring it on, I got plenty left!” I would never have got as far as I have now in life. Aside from that I probably have a much greater appreciation for little things in life that if I had never been ill I would have taken for granted. I also am probably far less judgemental and I try to think from other peoples perspectives before I get critical of them, you just never know what people are going through!

Do you have any visible signs of RA?

None!

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

Ask my mother, I more often than not have actually forgotten I am chronically, it’s only when someone out-performs me physically who shouldn’t that I remember. Then I use my injured pride as a driving force to achieve ever greater physical feats, I don’t recommend trying that one at home though and everyone else is probably much more mature about it than I am.

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

None!

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

Despite it all I live a vaguely normal life, I have an engineering degree in Aerospace Tech and hopefully soon a job with which to put my knowledge and skills to good use. Better for my health than a desk job I suspect! As a side result of having an auto-immune disease and meeting the goal of overcoming it, life is no longer fun if it isn’t challenging, so I am much into the outdoors and doing things like survival courses with field craft and camp craft, cross country cycling and hiking. If I am not putting stupid demands on my mind and body, then I am probably reading or playing video games, or having good times with friends and family!

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Jody

Jody

Real Profiles of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Photos © Jody

Name?

Jody

Age?

61

Location?

Cascais, Portugal (Europe) Born in New York City.

How long have you lived with RA?

Since 1995 but only diagnosed as having Psoriatic Arthritis in 1998…..I was inspired to profile myself after ready about Kate who also has PA.

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

Read, inform yourself like crazy and never stop, find a good Rheumy AND a good natural doctor who can compliment the medical doctor. Talk to other people with inflammatory autoimmune disease…join groups with people with similar problems…in person or on the net. Early diagnosis and treatment can stop joint destruction…I waited too long to get proper medicine trying to treat it naturally when I should have been on the disease modifying drugs to stop the destruction…so unfortunately I have a knee replacement and a fusion of some joints in my foot and a very crunchy elbow and my other knee is a bit dodgy and various bits and my back are sensitive if I over do it…and until I was stabilized by my Rheumy I was in intense pain all the time and could hardly walk and would wake up in the morning with fingers that were stuck and very painful.

Do you use any mobility aids?

Hardly at all now…used to have to use crutches, wheel chair, splints for my wrists.

How has living with RA helped to improve your life?

I am more humble, less arrogant, more patient, more accepting of me and others…and I can relate better to my patients…I am a doctor myself…I used to be a real sports guy…always doing sport when I could, very fit…I had to change that image of myself…I miss the intense physical activity and still live vicariously through my friends tennis and golf exploits…

Do you have any visible signs of RA?

No…not to the average person. In fact even many of my close friends find it hard to believe that I have had such pain and that I have a serious disease and I am on strong medicine…I try to be graceful with my problems…and also its not such good advertising if the doctor has bone and joint problems himself!! When my friends find out they say I have courage and show me respect and admiration for overcoming such difficulties…I like that…its satisfying to know that people respect me and know that I have overcome immense hurdles.

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

Talking, sharing with a good friend about my limitations, hugging somebody, good sex with my wife. Listening to music, helping others with similar problems…I used to see a psychologist and that was helpful. She helped to accept myself and see the disease as a gift. She also gave me permission to feel sorry for myself sometimes!

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

Methotrexate once a week, Meticoten 5mg daily, Paracetamol 500mg twice daily, Ibuprofene 400mg once daily…paracetamol with codeine from time to time. I try to have a regular massage, acupuncture, I try to have a sauna and a swim twice a week (but I have not had time for this lately.)

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

Yes…I have 7 kids from 31 to 6…one boy the rest are girls…4 still live at home. The teens drive me crazy! I love kids but sometimes need a break from them. Because I have so many mouths to feed I had to work full time through all the pain and discomfort. I was and am the main money earner so just had to do it. I am fortunate that I can still regularly work 8-10 hour day…I love my work, and live only 5 minutes from the office. My team at the clinic is very supportive and enables me to do my best. Good healthy food and regular sleep are really important to staying in remission.

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Chad-Fisher

Chad Fisher

Real Profiles of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Photos © Chad Fisher

Name?

Chad Fisher

Age?

40

Location?

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

How long have you lived with RA?

I was diagnosed with JRA at age 10; that was 30 years ago.

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

It’s ok…actually it’s good to cry, but don’t dwell there. Stay as active as possible and don’t let people do everything for you. Fight to the last moment before giving up on an activity or action. The longer you can do it, the better. Yes, it will hurt, but the benefits will outweigh the pain in the long run. Disclaimer – use wisdom of course, everyone’s situation is different.

Do you use any mobility aids?

None. I am stubborn and refuse anything. My wife sometimes bugs me about using a cane, especially in winter. Not going to happen.

How has living with RA helped to improve your life?

Frankly it hasn’t. I don’t say this out of bitterness or anger, but I think it impossible to suggest a disease that steals life and brings pain as something I can compliment or suggest as an improvement to my life. I have had an opportunity to learn many things, but I didn’t need JRA for that. Let’s just say I have had 30 years to think about this. I have tried to put the whole positive spin on it and in integrity of heart I can’t. It doesn’t make any sense to suggest this has benefited my life.

Again, this is not out of bitterness or anger, and I realize many people who are newer on this journey may try to look for the silver lining, and I understand that. I am an eternal optimist, but my 30 years give me a lifelong perspective that is different. JRA is trying to destroy my body, and I my goal is to crush and destroy it by living life to the fullest. JRA, you are going down!

Do you have any visible signs of RA?

Yes, my fingers and knees have some deformation. I walk with a pronounced limp.

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

I refuse to give up or let this disease rob me of my life and happiness. I learnt from a young age that attitude is everything when fighting this disease. JRA can take my mobility and try to put me in pain, but it cannot have my attitude. I guess after so many years it has become ingrained in me to keep a healthy attitude, that it is now natural.

Helping others is also a key. Being a pastor I am involved in people’s lives, and I have realized (and not to minimize the pain of JRA) that sometimes emotional distress hurts a lot and may be just has hard to handle as physical pain. When I help someone hurting, it certainly gives me a lift. I would also add my faith has given me emotional strength.

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

I don’t take any medications outside of the occasional Ibuprofen. I grew up when treatments and technology were limited. Doctors and Rheumatologists, for the most part, prescribed me large doses of Tylenol and Aspirin. Due to this, I have learned to force my body to listen to me, and this is how I manage my pain. It has led me to prefer to live as medication free as possible. I realize this is not possible or appropriate for everyone.

I use diet, exercise, faith and attitude as my main treatments. I try to eat healthy and I exercise by walking on a treadmill and lifting weights. I maintain emotional strength through prayer and my faith.

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

I don’t have all the answers. I love people, and I hurt with those living with such a horrible disease. I want to use my experience to inspire others and let them know they can thrive and not just simply exist. Oh and being Canadian – I love hockey!

I have a blog, which can be seen at: www.livingwitharthritistoday.com.

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Frank B

Frank B.

Real Profiles of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Photos © Frank B.

Name?

Frank B.

Age?

49

Location?

Knoxville, Tennessee, United States.

How long have you lived with RA?

I was diagnosed in early 2003, I was working around my house and my ankles became very sore. After a few weeks the pain was still quite evident and now was in my knees. I went to my Dr. and described my symptoms and he sent me to an RA specialist where I was tested and notified that I had RA.

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

I would say to get as much information as possible about RA. The Internet has wealth of information that will help you navigate your way through this disease. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor any questions you have about your condition. Early on I had all sorts of fears about what my future held, but with more knowledge I am more confident about what I can and can’t do.

Do you use any mobility aids?

No.

How has living with RA helped to improve your life?

Not sure how to answer that.

Do you have any visible signs of RA?

Not permanently, I had some weird nodules that showed up on my elbows, but they are gone now.

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

My favorite coping strategies has always been my families support. It has not always been easy, but through it all they have been awesome.

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

Currently I am using Enbrel, I have been on Celebrex, Methrotrexate, Prednisone, and some others early on that I can’t remember. My mom said my grandfather had RA and he used a salve made from devils club root in SE Alaska.

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

I am an artist that works in various mediums, from painting, carving, stained glass. Currently I am into repousse and chasing of copper, which requires many hours in position that really put a strain on my back and shoulders, fingers and forearms. Since starting Enbrel I have been able to work freely and with minimal breaks. For me it is like I do not even have RA.

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