Wednesday, October 12, 2011
When I was 36 years old I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. At 36, my body quickly went from being an active mom with young kids to a woman who physically felt like a 70+ year old woman. I struggled to get out of bed each morning and often required the assistance of my children to help me undress at night.
Looking back now I can see where rheumatoid arthritis was slowly showing its face. I remember working out and thinking, “I must not have stretched enough because my knee is really sore.” However, the symptoms that lead me to getting a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis and began the roller coaster of pain and stiffness in my body began with my fingers. I went to bed and woke up several times throughout the night unable to move my fingers. They would swell up. I was confused. I kept trying to think back over my days to see if I could figure out what I had done to make my fingers so sore.
I rarely go to the doctor but something told me my sore fingers weren’t right. My family physician gave me a prescription which I took and within ten days I was back in his office because the prescription wasn’t helping. In fact, I felt worse. He put me on prednisone. My family physician isn’t one to wait on sending me to a specialist so an appointment with a rheumatologist was scheduled for four months into the future.
What I remember the most about the four months of waiting for my appointment was the quick decline my body went through. Paperwork from the rheumatologist’s office was sent as soon as the appointment was scheduled and I dutifully filled everything out right away. When my appointment time arrived, I reviewed all the symptoms and remember feeling extreme panic at where I now was. The pain and swelling was no longer confined to my fingers but I now could barely walk on my feet because the balls were so swollen. I could no longer skip down the stairs but instead took each one step by step. I found myself in tears each morning when I couldn’t open the coffee canister. I was tired. I was scared.
I have now lived with rheumatoid arthritis for almost eight years. Initially I took the medication route only. When my symptoms continued to worsen, I saw a naturopath and began an elimination diet. Working with a naturopath allowed me to wean off prednisone and cut back on my Methotrexate. I went into remission for a few years. Then I came out of remission in 2008 and went off all medications for two years. The two years I experimented without drugs and focused only on alternative methods were a tough couple of years. However, I would repeat those years in a heartbeat. They were years that allowed me to really focus on where I want to be with this disease and most importantly to understand and accept that although I do have control over my feelings, the stress in my life, and the way I eat, I don’t have control over the flares that come as they want. August of 2010, I started on Enbrel and also tweaked my diet again by eliminating all grains, not just the gluten free ones. This last year has been amazing for me. Although I definitely still feel signs of RA in my body, I feel that my RA is managed.
I will be 44 years old this Saturday. I want to brag about my age because I went from feeling good as a 36 year old woman to feeling like a 70+ year old woman within months. After that experience, going back to 44 seems like a dream most people would kill for.
This last year has been good to me, but I have also been good to me. I know that the gift of health I have been given again is not something to be taken lightly. I know that it is a gift that can be taken away from me again at any moment and I have to live this life in the moment I have now. I have been eating in a way that not only feeds me but more importantly nourishes me. I eat grass fed cuts of meat, eggs, organic veggies and a few nuts and fruits here and there. I have returned to activities like bike rides with my family and long nature walks with my border collie that provide both fun and calm for me. I have even completed several rounds of P90X with my husband. I have uncluttered my life of many activities and people that bring stress rather than peace of mind. I have taken time to treat myself well and the results are amazing. So, on this World Arthritis Day, I feel proud to be where I am with my rheumatoid arthritis, proud of the accomplishments I have made along this journey, and excited to see where my 44th year of life takes me.
For more information about rheumatoid arthritis, check out RA Guy's 60 Second Guide To RA.
*Numbers from title: 115 = weight at onset of ra, 36 = age at onset of RA, 44 = current age