Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Introducing Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis


I am super excited to share Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis: Tools for Managing Treatment, Side Effects and Pain.  The author, Lene Andersen, is both an awesome gal in the inflammatory arthritis community and an excellent friend.  I have had the pleasure of working with Lene at Health Central and as a fellow board member on Show Us Your Hands! 

While I have known for some time that Lene was writing a book, I wasn't sure what the outcome would be.  All I knew was that she was always crazy busy writing her book. Once I had a chance to read it, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy and comfortable it is to read.  Lene shares some of her personal experiences, but in usual Lene style, backs everything up with research she has done over the many years she has lived with rheumatoid arthritis. This book covers topics that will help people who need guidance in overcoming the shock of being newly diagnosed, making decisions about medications, and a variety of alternative care ideas you can add to your mix.  Most importantly in my opinion, Lene shares tips on how to go about leading a healthy and happy life after being diagnosed with RA. 

Read through the following questions I had for Lene and then look for a little surprise at the end. (Yes, it involves winning something special.)    

1. Lene, welcome to The Life and Adventures of Cateepoo. Before we dive into your book, can you give my readers a short biography of yourself?
Thank you so much for hosting my first stop on the blog tour, Cathy!
I was born and raised in Denmark, hence the funny spelling of my first name. The first symptoms of juvenile arthritis arrived when I was four years old and I was diagnosed at age 9. This was before there were any effective treatments, so I was in a power wheelchair full-time by 16. My family and I moved to Toronto, Canada in the early 1980s. I have a Masters degree in Social Work and have worked in a number of different fields, including counseling and community and policy development. After a massive flare in 2004, I decided to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming a writer.

2. What drove you to write this book?
I wanted my 40+ years of having RA and learning how to live with and around it to be useful to others. The idea became the Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis series. It is designed to help empower people to take back control and find a way to live well with RA, so their life is first and the disease second. The first book, Tools for Managing Treatment, Side Effects and Pain, deals with the first step in the process:of finding ways to push the effects of the disease to the back burner. Once you do that, you can focus on the next steps. The next two books in the series will deal with other aspects of living well with RA.

3. In your opinion, why is medication the first and most important route to take with RA?
I grew up in a time where there were no treatments. At that time, RA meant inevitable disability. This is no longer the case. These days, DMARDs and the Biologics can prevent the damage that causes disability and minimize the impact of the systemic effects of RA, for instance lowering the risk of heart attacks. These medications are the only treatments that have been scientifically proven to suppress the disease and stopping the damage. Unfortunately, we are not yet at a time where they work for everyone, but most will be able to have some effect, slowing down the damage. If you slow down or stop RA, you will be able to have better quality of life and be able to participate in your family, your work, your community.

4. While your book focuses on medication and everything you need to know about them, from types of medication, cost, side effects, and more, you also share several home remedies, such as garlic, hot drinks and cranberry juice. What is your favorite home remedy and how does it help you?
I've always been a bit of a magnet for side effects. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot of different tricks to manage them and I share them in the book. One of my mainstays is related to the upper respiratory infections (a.k.a. sinus infections) that are common when you take immunosuppressants, such as methotrexate and Biologics. I used to get a lot of really bad sinus infections and had to be on antibiotics every couple of months. That’s just not good for you. After a couple of years of that madness, I discovered a simple regimen to keep sinus infections at bay. You need three things: a lot of water, a lot of pineapple juice and a lot of garlic. The water dilutes the crap — that ought to be a medical term — in your sinuses and pineapple juice has an anti-inflammatory enzyme that allows the crap to drain. The garlic has antibacterial qualities, helping to prevent infection (and also tastes really yummy). Thanks to this regimen, I haven't taken antibiotics for sinus infections in almost 5 years! Whenever I feel a sinus infection coming on, I increase the amount of water, pineapple juice and garlic and am able to beat them back.

5. In chapters 33-37 you describe many types of alternative care to add to your mix. I like that. Everything from acupuncture to saying "no" were discussed. Can you share a couple of others with us?
Although I am unashamedly pro-medication, I believe alternative medicine is a really important tool in improving your general health and managing your RA symptoms. In my experience, integrating allopathic (Western) and alternative medicines can help you feel better than either of the two separately. I'm a big fan of acupuncture — it's been part of my health care since I was 12. Shiatsu massage has also been tremendously helpful for me. Another favorite is meditation, which is very helpful in dealing with pain and the stress of having a chronic illness. My favorite Toronto pain specialist, Dr. Jan Carstoniu, is quoted in the book with a terrific meditation technique: Sit down. Don't move. Shut up. Do that for 20 minutes a day and you'll feel better!

6. I was pleasantly surprised to see you had devoted a section of your book to "sex." Why was this a necessary part of the book?
You're going to be even happier with Book 3 — it'll include a much more detailed discussion of sex! Sex is an important part of being a whole human being. Unfortunately, it's often put on the shelf when you have RA. This can be because of stress, body image issues or because you or your partner is afraid it'll make you hurt more. Being physically intimate pulls you out of the place of stress, worry and pain that is so often part of RA. Sex can help you feel better about your body and as an extra benefit, the endorphins released during orgasm are really excellent painkillers! There are things you have to be careful of, but overall, there's no reason why RA should prevent you from expressing your sexuality.

7. Where else can we find your work?
In addition to the Your Life with RA website and blog, I write a personal blog called The Seated View. I am also the Community Leader for HealthCentral.com's RA site.

Thanks so much for having me as a guest on your blog!


Now for the surprise!  Lene is giving away a Kindle version of her book to two randomly chosen winners.  To enter the drawing, answer the following question in the comments section or on my Life and Adventures of Cateepoo Facebook page:

What kinds of alternative medicine have you tried?"


*Drawing will be Monday, March 4, 2013.