Making Lists to Stay on Task With Rheumatoid Arthritis

Sara Nash Health Guide
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    When I was a child, the end of summer always heralded the beginning of another year at school. Store windows that had previously featured bathing suits and tank tops replaced the looks of summer with the latest fashions for the fall.  This meant it was time for my mother to take my brother, sister and me on our annual shopping trip for school supplies – an event I always looked forward to, even if it did mean my freedom was drawing to a close. I loved the preparations that came along with starting a new grade and would diligently sharpen all my pencils, organize my trapper keeper and meticulously pick out my first-day-of-school outfit to make sure I was perfectly ready.

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    Now that I’m an adult, August no longer means the start of a new school year is right around the corner; nonetheless, this time of year still inspires a desire in me to get myself organized and refocused on what’s ahead. As we all know, managing a chronic illness like rheumatoid arthritis comes with a lot of homework, and sometimes, it can be hard to keep up with everything that’s been assigned to us. Lately, I feel like I’ve been slacking off a little, and it’s time to get back on task and even do a little RA supply shopping!


    First on my list is getting a new notebook.  After I found out that rheumatoid arthritis was the nasty culprit behind my immobilizing pain and fatigue, I trudged out and bought a small notebook to record all my symptoms, questions and, eventually, notes from doctor’s appointment and the running to-do list that seemed to result from each check-in. The notebook has served me well, but it is now nearly full, ratted, worn and stuffed beyond reason with cards from different doctors. I think the time has come to surrender this notebook and find a new one that can help me keep all of my doctor notes in order – not to mention all of my doctor appointments.


    Speaking of which, it’s time to make some. I see many of my doctor’s several times a year, but each of them runs on a different schedule: I see my rheumatologist every three months, the dentist and opthalmalogist every six months, my internist once a year (or more, as needed), and then there are usually a few one off’s like going to the dermatologist for a skin cancer check. Now is a good time to make sure I’ve gotten all of these set up and on my calendar, and to put in for any sick days that I’ll need to take in order to go to these appointments. I like to keep track of my appointments using an online calendar, which I can access easily at work, at home, or on the go with my mobile. Regardless of whether you use an electronic calendar or the tried and true paper kind, it’s helpful to keep all of your appointments in one place so you can show up at the right place on time.


    Next on my list is to get seriously organized at home.This means I’ve got to clean out my desk.I’ve fallen a bit behind in filing all my insurance papers and prescription receipts in their proper places, so I am overdue on getting these put away.It’s also a good opportunity for me to get rid of receipts and papers that I no longer need, such as all my prescription receipts and federal tax saving forms from two years ago! Out with the old to make room for the new.


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    With an illness like RA, it’s important to be prepared. Looking ahead, I know that I’ll continue to travel a lot over the next year, and after my last trip to Korea, it became abundantly clear to me that my old suitcase was anything but RA-friendly. It was way too heavy – and that was before I even put anything in it! I bought it seven years ago when I was young and healthy, but now when I travel with it, I’m dependent on others to help me stow it in the overhead bin on the plane. Clearly, I’m long overdue for a new one, and after doing a lot of research, I’ve found a lightweight carry on that is much more functional and portable than my old one (though I may still need to ask for help with it depending on how much I pack!) Just like I used to eagerly pack my new backpack with all my supplies in anticipation of that first day of school, I can’t wait to take my first trip using my smart, new lightweight luggage.


    And, because I never like to pass up an opportunity to update my wardrobe (and because there are lots of sales going on), now is a great time to take stock of what I may need for the colder months that aren’t too far away. New stylish but comfy winter shoes? Check. A warm hat and gloves to make sure my ears and fingers stay cozy? Check.


    While we don’t get the luxury of a summer vacation to take a break from managing a chronic illness, jumping on the Back-to-School bus is a good way to make sure we stay on task- after all, it’s one aspect of living with rheumatoid arthritis that we can have some control over.


    Sara is the author of the blog, The Single Gal's Guide to Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Published On: August 18, 2010