Long Island, NY
How has your condition affected you? After giving birth to my son 3 years ago, my feet were feeling slightly stiff and uncomfortable. The stiff feeling never went away and, in fact, slowly got worse. I wouldn't say I ignored it, but I almost got used to the discomfort, thinking I was just having normal body aches.
Last year, it started to become significantly worse and I went to my Primary Care Physician (PCP), who told me that it was simply some tendonitis I was experiencing after a childhood of being active. That sounded okay and I went with it. I had a neck injury from a past car accident, and attributed a lot of my pain to that as well. In the past year, my symptoms progressed and spread to my hands and knees. My feet got so stiff that I couldn't walk in the morning without cracking and popping them at the joints.
I finally went past my PCP and went straight to a Rheumatologist. I was immediately diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. I was more emotional about it than I excpected. I guess hearing that you have a life-long disease is hard to swallow no matter what it is. I was told I needed to begin Methotrexate right away. The Rheumatologist ran down a huge list of scary side effects. But it is necessary and effective in stopping the progression of RA. I haven't been able to begin the treatment yet though, because a few months ago I was given a live virus vaccine. In the meantime, they have me on Prednisone. It is helping a little, but making me gain weight quickly. In fact, I was worried about my picture for this project because of the puffiness of my face!
I am in a great deal of pain, and can now only sleep for about an hour at a time before the stiffness and pain wakes me up. I am a mother and work full time and it honestly makes a lot of my days a struggle to get through. I am hopeful that the treatment will turn this all around for me. I am lucky to have the love of my family to help me through each day.
What would you like for other people to know about Rheumatoid Arthritis? I think the name of the disease is misleading for most. Although our joints are affected and become arthritic, the disease itself is an autoimmune disorder. It is not a joint disorder like most believe; it is our immune system losing the ability to identify the difference between the good and bad things in our bodies, so it begins to attack everything. I told my family to all please read up on this disease, because I feel like they must think I am nuts when I tell them I am having a bad day and feel miserable, when realistically, I look just fine. I think it has been a lesson to me to not assume that you understand another person's struggles just by looking at them. There could be a quiet struggle underneath that they are fighting every day, which is exactly the situation for most people with an autoimmune disorder.
What would you want to tell someone who was recently diagnosed with RA? Well, I am one of those recently diagnosed people, and at this point, still live with severe pain and sleepless nights. Turning to others who have RA has really helped me understand that the emotions I am feeling are normal, and that there is definitely a light at the end of the tunnel. So many live with this every day, and so many continue to live normal, comfortable lives. I look forward to getting to that point. I continue to research every day so that I can make sure I am doing everything I can to help myself and others who have RA.
Thanks so much Jackie!