Friday, May 11, 2018

How to Change Your Diet With Rheumatoid Arthritis

Looking to change your diet to help reduce the inflammation in your body? Diet changes has been a huge part of my RA journey. I have tips to share here. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Caring for a Newborn When You Have RA

Thank you to all the mamas at Mamas Facing Forward for sharing their struggles and tips as a mama with a newborn. I am in awe of you. See the entire slideshow here and if you like it, please share so that other mamas can learn from these amazing people. Happy Mother's Day. You are doing great!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Raising Arthritis Awareness Within the RA Community

1st year with RA
Since early 2004, I have worn many RA hats. When I was first diagnosed, I was quite active. With two young children, I had to be. But besides running after kids, I worked out regularly. Then things took a nosedive and I was embarrassed for my family to see me walk down the five stairs to the main level of our house. Then I improved. Then I got worse than ever. For several years I struggled to lift my bed sheet over my chest. Today, I am in a good place again. FYI, a good place to me means I can do just about anything I put my mind to but I fight fatigue on a daily basis, have occasionally knee flares, and humidity makes my fingers swell to a point they won't move.

All I see in this photo is the pain I
was in and the prednisone I was on.
My journey with RA has taught me a valuable lesson that I want our community to understand and then liberally share with the world. There is not a one size fits all when you are diagnosed with RA. Sometimes I feel like our own community doesn't understand this fact. It breaks my heart when friends who have struggled with pain finally get to a place they can share a photo of themselves doing yoga or running a 5K and are instantly accused of "not really having RA." That's not okay.    

Modern medications are making it possible for many of us to move outside of the lines that have been drawn for us by research, doctors, and even our community. When I was at my worst, I wanted nothing more to read about someone taking up weight training, starting a new job, or adding on to their family. These are the people that gave me hope that my life with RA could and would change. Let's learn from each other. Let's support each other at where we are right now. Let's let go of the competition that is often found in our community to prove we are sicker than anyone else. 

Living life!
When we tear each other down because of lack of information about the full spectrum on RA or out of disappointment about our own RA journey, we hurt each other. Attacking someone in the community scares them away and all we are left with are the worst case scenarios. While these stories are also needed, they don't show the full picture of what our community is doing. I believe we are diverse and full of numerous stories to be told, we just have to be ready to listen!

Monday, March 26, 2018

Rheumatoid Arthritis Win with DIY Project

My sweet Izzy took nap time
 downstairs to be close to me. 
In our current house, I've painted three bedrooms, two of them multiple times now and the kitchen. So, when I decided to paint our small downstairs bathroom, I thought it would be a breeze. Nope. The bright yellow walls we painted almost 16 years ago were stubborn about leaving. Then, the paint color I had so carefully considered looked awful on the walls and I had to prime again. Finally, we found a color everyone is happy with and the bathroom is complete.

From bright yellow to
Do-it-yourself projects tend to make me feel rather proud. Partly, I feel a sense of accomplishment that I was able to complete the project by myself but more than that, I feel a certain satisfaction in knowing that rheumatoid arthritis doesn't currently have control over my life. Sure, I know beforehand I will wake up with sore wrists and I did. My fingers were swollen throughout the process, but not unbearable. It was tough to squat down and paint behind the toilet, but I managed. Rheumatoid arthritis has a way of taking me down at times but when I accomplish something big like a DIY project, it is the best. Somehow, a win against RA even makes the room more beautiful. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Feeling Sexy When You're Hurting: Body Image and Chronic Illness

Let’s be honest, feeling sexy in the traditional sense of done-up hair, makeup, and sexy lingerie is most likely a low priority when your body is in pain. If you are anything like me, a shower and shaved legs might be as seductive you get. Is it even possible to feel sexy when you can barely walk, moan in pain, and feel you’ve aged a hundred years? Absolutely. However, it takes some work and reassessing what “sexy” means with a chronic illness. 

To read my very candid thoughts on how to bring your sexy back, check out this article and other work of mine at HealthCentral.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Vulnerability: It Makes Us Human

As an adult education instructor, I have the unique opportunity of learning the magic of vulnerability from the students I teach. With each and every class, the folks I meet begin expressing their fears on day one when we discuss our educational goals for the semester and beyond. In the 16 years I have been teaching adults, there has never been a class where a student hasn't apologized for their reading and writing skills. It is humbling to have these words shared with me when I am still a stranger to them. My heart aches for them but also grows with admiration as they open up a world to me that they have be trying to hide for so many years.

This semester, I have a woman in one of my classes who, in my opinion, seemed to have something to prove to the world. She tried finishing my lectures and jumped on answering questions before I had finished asking them. I felt angry that she was trying to high-jack my class. But then, she amazed me with her strength as a person. She stayed after class to talk. She shared that in her native country she had learned English and felt very confident coming to the US knowing all aspects of the English language. Then she arrived and realized she doesn't understand anyone speaking English except those who have the same accent as she does. She shared how frustrated she was with herself and asked for help. In that moment, she opened herself up to me as an entirely different person. By sharing her vulnerable side, I felt the tension I had towards her leave my body and all I wanted to do was help her.

When living with a chronic illness such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), vulnerability is tough. By admitting to others that we are in physical/emotional pain or that we can no longer perform activities we once did with ease, we feel defeated. And, with time, we often let these insecurities build up until it is almost impossible to let our guard down. Many times we are even afraid to be vulnerable with ourselves, to let ourselves cry and experience the pain we feel inside. Admitting our true feelings, even to ourselves, can sometimes be too painful. But please know that by sharing fears, frustrations, and insecurities with others is the core of who we are as humans. It is how we grow and how we learn about ourselves and others. RA has been a good vulnerability teacher for me. Sometimes I am a good student but other times I resist. However, when I do finally let my guard down and share with others, I feel liberated. By acknowledging my vulnerable side, I am able to move on. 

Brene Brown says, "What makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful." I believe this. Each time a student or fellow RA community member shares their story, I feel energized that I am not on this journey of life alone. I feel a stronger bond with those who allow me to see what is inside them, to really know them, and I hope others feel the same way about me.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Rheumatoid Arthritis: Why Don't They Understand What I Am Going Through?

Learning to live with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is no easy feat. It takes time and patience to comprehend what RA has in store for our bodies and how we will personally deal with it. To make matters worse as we grapple with this life changing event, we must educate our family, friends, and even our coworkers about RA when we have little energy to spare. We may come to realize that the people in our life don’t respond the way we had expected, leaving us to wonder: “Why don’t they understand what I am going through?”

To read my take on why others might not understand what you are going through, visit me at HealthCentral.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

My Maturing Relationship With RA

Have you ever been in a relationship you didn’t ask for and couldn’t get out of? That’s how I felt when I met rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in January of 2004. Our introduction was painful and those first years of getting to know each other were less than ideal. There was a lot of crying, yelling, and many misunderstandings on my part. Looking back, I was immature in what it meant to be connected to an autoimmune disease such as this and wasn’t ready for the demands it put on me. RA brought out a side of me that wasn’t pretty — lots of hyperventilating, tears, panic, and doubt in my future.

To read about how my relationship has matured, visit me at HealthCentral 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Sex and RA: How to Talk to Your Spouse

It’s the end of the night. I crawl into bed, get in as comfortable a position as I know I will find, and then feel my husband’s hand on me. “No!” I know that touch and what comes with it. What do I do?
Talking to a spouse about sexual needs and wants is not the easiest of conversations, even without a chronic illness like rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, sex continues to be a major part of many relationships with RA and to keep it alive, we must be open to uncomfortable conversations.

To read my tips on talking to your spouse, visit me at here at HealthCentral.