This is a pretty inspirational video on a young Australian woman diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Not only does it prove that arthritis doesn’t discriminate as she was young, fit and active when her symptoms began, but it also shows how a positive outlook and quick action can help make this chronic disease more tolerable.
I’m sick and tired. I’m tired of simply “dealing” with the pain caused by my RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis). Since my diagnoses at 23 years old, I’ve probably tried 30 different combinations of Rx’s. Some have made me nauseous while others have made me feel great. It’s strange to say that I’ve taken chemotherapy medication, but have never had cancer. I’ve been poked, prodded and my body’s been stretched out in every direction. At the end of the day, my 20s were anything other than boring. And then I woke up and decided I’d finally had enough. Something had to change and I had to figure out what was happening inside my body.
Alas. I’ve turned myself into a living, breathing science project over the last month and a half since I began seeing a naprapathic doctor at Northwestern University Hospital in Chicago. I have learned so much since the science project began. In our first hour and a half long visit, my doctor and I discussed so many details of my life. We talked about everywhere I’ve lived, all the medical conditions my family and I have ever had, my diet and exercise habits. And during the meeting, we found a potential tie between the dental implants I received roughly 6 months prior to my first symptoms of RA. So, we ordered a metal allergy test during that meeting and within two weeks, we learned that I am allergic to tin. I didn’t previously know any of this, but it turns out that tin can be found in endless amounts of everyday, household items. Tin is in toothpaste, soaps, perfumes and plastics like Tupperware. Contrary to popular belief, soda cans are not typically made of tin. The most important discovery we made is that tin can be found in dental implants.
I’m beyond floored to learn that the dental implants my surgeon installed in my mouth could have triggered my RA and caused all of the pain and suffering I’ve gone through over the last 7 years. It’s ridiculous. I’m told that if I have the implants removed, the RA will likely not be cured. I’m told that if the implants didn’t trigger the RA when I was 23 years old, something else would have, eventually. It angers me to think about how much better my 20’s could have been if I never had the implants which may have caused my RA. Now I have to make a decision and decide whether or not I want to have the implants removed. Sure, the monetary cost for the procedure would be high, but the expectations for a cure would be even higher. Additionally, the thought of having metal that’s currently drilled into my jaw removed from my jaw is scarier than all hell. The first procedure was extremely painful and I’m guessing the removal surgery would be 1,000 times worse.
What to do… What to do.
American media is famous for flaunting pictures of skinny, well-groomed models in high heels as something or someone young women should aspire to look like. When you’re a sick girl, it’s tough to feel sexy in those ways. It’s hard enough to make it to the gym sometimes let alone button your blouse, blow dry your hair or put on makeup in the mornings. And heels? Forget about it. There are days when I can barely walk in flats.
Most newly diagnosed Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) patients happen to be young women. And let’s face it; it’s tough to be a young woman in today’s world. Juggling dating with a new career, school, family, etc. isn’t easy. No matter who you are, where you’re from or what kind of baggage you bring with you, relationships come with their fair share of ups and downs. Throw a chronic disease like Rheumatoid Arthritis into the mix and relationships (let alone every day life) can become even more difficult for all parties involved.
Throughout all of my research on RA, I have yet to come across much information about how RA affects those involved in romantic relationships. This topic begs a million questions like “how do I explain this disease to the new guy I’m dating? I don’t want to worry him or freak him out. I don’t want him to think I’m weak or fragile, even if I am.” And once you get past all of that and discover yourself in a fulfilling, healthy relationship with a partner who fully supports you and your disease, what effects does the disease have on your relationship in the long-term?
In 2003, Hill, Bird and Thorpe conducted a study published in the Oxford Journal called, “Effects of Rheumatoid Arthritis on sexual activity and relationships“.
Highlights from the Study
- 35% of respondents said their disease strained their relationship with their partner
- 56% said their arthritis placed limitations on their sex life due to pain and fatigue
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with relationship expert Dr. Gail Saltz to get her opinion on how rheumies should communicate within committed relationships. Dr. Saltz is a Psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, weekly MSNBC.com columnist, best-selling author and Today Show TV commentator; AKA, she knows what she’s talking about. She reiterated throughout our discussion that successful relationships require a lot of time, energy and hard work, despite whether or not one of the people involved has a disease.
Dr. Saltz indicated that at the end of the day, there are many reasons a person might want to be in a relationship with someone just like there are a lot of reasons they might NOT want to be in a relationship with someone … Without considering whether or not that person has Rheumatoid Arthritis. The key is to find someone who loves you for who you are, not what you are. Being a rheumie is not who you are. It doesn’t define you as a person. You are so much more than that. In most cases, you are a strong young woman who should be appreciated for your courage, perseverance and ambition to fight a disease.
Dr. Saltz also said “actions speak louder than words”. Basically, if you have physical limitations, your partner should go out of their way to help you without even being asked. For example, if your feet are in excruciating pain, your partner should help you kick back and make dinner for you or run an errand so that you don’t have to when you’re feeling weak or fatigued. And if you’re really lucky, maybe you’ll even get a foot rub out of the deal! But make sure to repay those favors whenever you can. Find ways to return those favors that don’t wear you out when you’re flaring. A dinner out on the town, a massage gift card or a thoughtful note can show your appreciation and make for an equal partnership.
Keeping the line of communication open is one of the best ways to combat stressful times in a relationship. If your disease has you down in the dumps, express that to your partner rather than letting it build up. Letting negative feelings build up inside you is a recipe for disaster because chances are, that negative energy can explode all over the wrong person and in most cases (at least for me), that wrong person is usually someone you love. So be sure to share what you are going through rather than hiding it to avoid atomic bombs like that.
If you’re out and about on the dating scene and you want to approach the rheumie topic with someone, but don’t know how, ask yourself if they make you feel comfortable first. Make sure you really like them, see a future with them and have mutual chemistry before sharing this part of your life. If you decide that they’re worth moving forward with and you want to proceed, do so in a natural, positive way. Be honest and explain that you do have Rheumatoid Arthritis, but then tell them the ways that you are coping with it. I find that in most life situations, if you present an issue to someone along with how you’re working to accept the issue as part of your life, they feel more comfortable with the issue than they would if you were just to present the issue alone. If the relationship is meant to move forward, the person will communicate with you about the RA. They should ask questions and show interest rather than avoid discussing it all together. And if they don’t, DITCH THEM IMMEDIATELY! Don’t waste your time trying to change another person’s insensitivities to the reality of life because you can’t. Remember, you’re a strong young woman who should be appreciated for your courage, perseverance and ambition to fight a disease. So feel sexy for those reasons! And lucky for us, ballet flats and stretchy pants are in style again this year.
For more information on dating with RA, watch “Playing the Dating Game with RA”, a New Way RA webisode featuring our very own Dr. Gail Saltz.
For the first time in known history, a fellow rheumie – AKA Rheumatoid Arthritis patient named Jeffrey Gottfurcht is going to attempt to climb Mt. Everest starting in late March 2011. This is mind-blowing to me. To think… RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis) limits me from tackling certain things everyday like typing, unlocking my apartment door, buttoning my coat, etc. while this man with the same disease is going to climb Mt. Everest. Amazing!
Jeffrey is the founder of the Jeffrey Gottfurcht Children’s Arthritis Foundation. His foundation seeks to fulfill the dreams of children afflicted by RA. He was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis at the age of 28.
If you have had RA for a period of time, you already know this disease will change your life in many ways – both negatively and sometimes even positively. If you were recently diagnosed, believe me when I tell you that it sucks, but something good can and will come out of this seemingly terrible situation. The fact is, all chronic diseases will change your life. Just try not to dwell too much on the bad, and let the disease change you in positive ways too. People like Jeffery should be an inspiration to us all.
Learn more about Jeffrey’s climb at his foundation’s website.
No one can argue that Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) isn’t extremely painful. Medical companies, Scientists and Physicians continually do their best to come up with new and improved medications to slow the crippling effects of the disease and manage pain while Rheumatologists work hard to determine the most beneficial combinations of those medications to treat your RA.
You have a personal responsibility as someone diagnosed with RA to manage your disease to the best of your ability as your team of doctors and supporters can’t be with you every single moment of your day. It’s been proven time and time again that diet and exercise can help control the feelings of fatigue, pain and inflammation that go hand and hand with a diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Eating foods infused with the right vitamins and/or taking oral supplements is just the first step to controlling your disease. The second major step to controlling your RA is to exercise regularly and to do so smartly. This doesn’t mean you should necessarily be out there running marathons. We have arthritis people, which means we need to adjust our exercise regimens to protect our joints as much as possible. Speed walking, weight training, elliptical work, martial arts, yoga and swimming are just a few examples of ways to get your heart moving without damaging your joints. Yoga however is my preferred method of exercise.
The John Hopkins Center for Arthritis indicates that “yoga can be a meaningful and enjoyable alternative to traditional forms of exercise such as aerobics or aquatic exercise with important health benefits. Yoga can play an important role in reducing stress and frustration that results from pain and disability, and increasing positive feelings and wellbeing. Drug treatments for OA and RA have improved markedly in the last few years. Despite this, arthritis cannot be cured, and even the best medications and medical care can only help so much. There is a great need for additional activities patients can do to reduce pain, disability, and take control of the overall impact arthritis may have on their lives. Thus, the evidence suggests that, when combined with a program of good medical care, yoga may provide important additional physical and psychological health benefits for arthritis patients. Scientists at Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center hope to be at the forefront of exploring this relationship through rigorously conducted clinical research trials.”
I’ve personally found yoga to be a God send in my RA treatment plan. Not only does it make my body stronger while increasing my energy levels, but it also calms my mind and picks up my spirits. Yoga is an emotional getaway for many people, especially those with chronic diseases. If you allow your practice to take over your mind and your body, you can truly escape to a place where pain and other negative feelings are non-existent… even if just for an hour.
On that note,
Namas-De my dear readers.
“Wait a minute…. I have arthritis and you’re asking me to exercise? Give me a break! Do you know how much pain I’m in? There’s no way my body will allow me to walk through the door of a gym let alone to the end of my driveway to grab the mail. “
Do you suffer from arthritis and does this scenario sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. Believe it or not, exercise is just one of the many things that will actually alleviate your arthritis symptoms in the long run. There are many common misconceptions about arthritis. Here are just a few.
• Arthritis is for old people.
o FALSE! Young children get arthritis. Did you know that children with Junior Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA) often suffer from high fevers every single day of their lives? They frequently have enlarged livers and spleens which help lead doctors to the JRA diagnoses.
o Pets get arthritis too. The pain and inflammation in the affected pet’s joints causes a decline in mobility.
• Arthritis consists of minor aches and pains.
o Maybe arthritis is a minor irritation for some lucky people but for others like myself, arthritis is an excruciatingly painful disease that prevents you from getting out of bed some days.
o Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. This disease causes cartilage to deteriorate in joints leading to very painful bone on bone friction.
o Rheumatoid and Psoriatic Arthritis are actually autoimmune diseases meaning the body of the afflicted person actually attacks its own cells. Their immune system mistakes some part of the body as a pathogen and attacks it.
• There is a cure for Arthritis.
o Don’t we wish?! There are many things people can do to slow arthritis progression, but as of today there is no cure. Various medications can help alleviate pain symptoms and slow the progression of this disease, but they don’t actually cure the disease.
o In addition to medication, exercise really helps control soreness and flare-ups.
Although it’s difficult for all people (arthritis or not) to start a new fitness routine, it’s especially difficult for those suffering from chronic pain and disease. But once you get started and movement becomes habitual, you’ll quickly start to notice how much better you really can and do feel. Keep in mind, I’m not saying that people with Arthritis need to be outside running marathons. I’m talking about walking, dancing, doing yoga, riding a bike… anything that gets you moving.
Remember your treatment starts with you so be good to your body, it’s the only one you’ve got. I’ve personally found it liberating to take control of my disease whenever possible so the disease doesn’t always control me. That being said, don’t be afraid to get out there and start moving and start taking control of your own body! May is Arthritis month so it’s the perfect time to get outside and start walking. You are not alone. There are over 100 Arthritis Walks being help nationwide throughout the month of May. Chances are, there’s a walk being held near your community. So start moving and start feeling good!
If you want to learn more about walks in your community, visit the Arthritis Foundation’s Walk site for locations and to sign up: http://www.arthritis.org/arthritis-walk.php
If you are interested in learning more about how movement helps alleviate arthritis symptoms, visit the fight arthritis pain site: http://www.fightarthritispain.org/
Lastly, if you live in the Chicagoland area, I encourage you to sign up and walk with my team on May 22nd in Lincoln Park: http://chicagoarthritiswalk.kintera.org/faf/search/searchTeamPart.asp?ievent=312423&lis=1&kntae312423=A21824C4BC8D4E1A8875387245DE9317&team=3618638&tlteam=3639644