The Evolution of a Solution: Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis
Two years, three doctors and eight medications ago, I was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis. I had lived a healthy life for all of my 36 years, and suddenly I was unable to do everyday tasks like walk my dog, lift the grocery bags or even open a jar. I was angry that I had rheumatoid arthritis, and I blamed my disease for all the things that I could no longer do.
My pity party didn’t last very long because walking and using my hands were not optional for me, as I was a full-time mother of two young daughters. I began to look at rheumatoid arthritis differently by accepting it as just one part of me rather than letting it define the sum of me. How would your own life blossom if you stopped blaming your autoimmune disease for what it has taken from you, and instead searched for its hidden gifts?
My rheumatoid arthritis was diagnosed swiftly and treated aggressively thanks to an attentive, insightful and action-oriented rheumatologist. He has always listened to me empathetically and answered my questions honestly. He has navigated the medication maze with me and empowered me by giving me choices about my treatment.
The rheumatoid arthritis treatment road has not been easy – it has been long and windy and full of potholes. I tried six various medications over eighteen months. They were: Sulfasalazine, Prednisone, Methotrexate, Meloxicam, Enbrel and Diclofenac. Some of these medications helped me some of the time; however, none of them stopped my pain. In fact, they caused questionable side effects such as weight gain, hair loss, a compromised immune system and negative liver function results.
I was frustrated each time I received a new prescription, yet always hopeful that each would be the “one” to help me feel better. I had to make a paradigm shift in terms of how I viewed my pain. I acknowledged the pain by resting when I was tired and elevating and icing my ankles and feet when they hurt. I also pushed through the pain, refusing to let it define me. I continued to exercise, walk and hike as well as take care of my house and family. Even though I was hurting, I knew I had to continue to do the things that I loved; otherwise the rheumatoid arthritis would win.
When I was hurting badly, I altered my fitness program from walking and boot camps to more joint-friendly activities like pilates, yoga and water aerobics. I saw a chiropractor and acupuncturist, and I took fish oil supplements to help ease my pain. I remained hopeful, patient and persistent in my quest to feel better.
Ultimately, my doctor prescribed two more medications for me – Remicade and Nabumetone. This combination worked for me by ending my pain and fatigue almost immediately! I was elated when my aching, hot joints cooled and I could walk rather than limp. My frown turned into a smile when I realized that I felt “normal” again.
Living well with an autoimmune disease is complex and requires what I call the “four P’s:” Patience, Persistence, Perseverance and Process.
It will take time to discover which medications, nutrition plans, fitness routines and other therapies will be successful for you, so you must be patient.
There isn’t a one-size fits all approach to treating autoimmune disease, so you must also be persistent in partnering with your doctor to solve this puzzle.
You have to persevere through your symptoms, even when you want to give in to them, so that you define your life rather than your disease defining it.
Lastly, trust that healing is a process and be mindful of the small improvements in your overall health.
Having rheumatoid arthritis has taught me how to celebrate the bright times, when I feel good, and to find ways to survive the times when I feel badly. I seize my good days and release the bad ones because I know I will have both. Doesn’t everyone? What do you do on your good and bad days?
About the Author
Heather Seiden is a Denver based resume writer and the owner of ResumeBloom. She is grateful for her family and her health – they inspire her daily.
This blog post was originally published by AutoimmuneMom.com, written by Heather Seiden, and first published on Nov 5, 2012.
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