The Rheumatoid Arthritis Journey – A Year in Review

Cathy Health Guide
  • This summer I was in Maine with my five siblings and mom when I saw this T-shirt. 




    I am generally not a T-shirt wearing gal, but it seemed to say exactly how I feel about life.


    2011 has been a year of success for my rheumatoid arthritis and me.  Shortly before the year began I came out of a more than two year whole body flare and things just seem to continue getting better. 


    In January I completed a full round of P90X, a challenging workout tape that incorporates push-ups, pull-ups, weights, and cardio movements.  I felt so proud of myself! 

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    In February I started reading The Barefoot Book by Daniel Howell, M.D. What I learned from this book would guide me throughout the rest of the year in an experiment of minimalist shoes and barefoot walking, the number one best thing I did for my feet, ankles, knees, and hips.  In February I also became a contributor for HealthCentral.  Getting to know so many wonderful people has been a wonderful part of my rheumatoid arthritis journey.  






    March and April forced my mind away from rheumatoid arthritis and to my dad who spent some time in Hospice and then died in April.  I always knew losing one of my parents would be hard, but it was worse than I imagined.  It felt as if a huge part of me was gone from this world.  Thankfully as my mind and heart were dealing with this loss, my rheumatoid arthritis continued to settle into the background. 


    May was an active month for me.  I got back on the bicycle for lots of rides in forest preserves as well around our neighborhood to the grocery store, haircuts, and the library.  I attended yoga classes with my daughter and felt giddy when asked if I had any health problems because I answered, "No, I am good."  It was true.  I felt I could do as much or more than anyone in the room and when I didn't feel that way, I backed off from a move.  No need to share my disease with yet another person when it wasn't necessary.  The month of May allowed me to do some hiking with my kids.  There is nothing I like better than being out in nature with my family where we can concentrate on each other and the beauty around us.  Also in May, my daughter and I painted her bedroom.  Each time I climbed up the ladder and lifted my arm to paint I was so thankful for the gift of health I have been given this year. Unfortunately May also saw some new nodules which concerned my rheumy and we began watching them.


    June was a celebration of 23 years of married life.  Wow!  That is a long time.  It is also a good time.  With the warmth of summer I took full advantage of barefoot walking.  Each day I did half of my two mile walk with my border collie in my Vibram Five Fingers and half completely barefoot. For everywhere else I needed to go I wore my VFF, old sandals, or went barefoot if possible.  Being barefoot felt almost like giving my foot a massage.  It seemed to allow pressure points on my feet to be touched in exactly the way they needed to be touched.  My feet never felt so good!  I watched in amazement as they became stronger and the corns on my feet almost disappeared.  Even my hammertoes seemed to be straightening out. 



    July and August once again forced my mind and body away from rheumatoid arthritis as my sister found out she had acoustic neuoroma, a benign brain tumor.  It was during this time that I focused more on the idea that with RA we expect everyone to understand exactly how we are feeling.  In reality, it just can't be done.  We all have our own life issues going on and although we want to truly understand what those we love are experiencing, not all experiences are meant to be fully felt by every person.  It was a time for me to let go of my own issues and instead focus on my sister.  I knew I couldn't understand exactly how she felt during this time and I was okay with that because I knew that I was dealing with this in the only way I knew how.  Plus, I was so glad that she didn't put expectations on me to understand her journey anymore than I could.  It was a good lesson for me in how I deal with my rheumatoid arthritis and the expectations I place on others.

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    I changed medications in August due to the increase of nodules.   September, October, November, and even December have brought a lot of feet pain.  I am blaming it on the fact that I also had to put shoes on to return to my teaching job and because Chicago weather is too extreme to go barefoot or even to wear my Vibram Five Fingers every day.  Currently I am in the process of trying to find a new pair of boots.  I am so thankful to Zappos who has free shipping that allows me to continue to try on boots and then return them quickly for a refund.  I HAVE to try on the boots and wear them around the house before I can get an idea of how my feet will feel.   Purchasing new shoes is no easy job!


    Throughout the year I continued to learn new things about myself.  I focused on balancing my needs as an introvert that needs a lot of time at home with a busy schedule of work (I added to my work hours this year too) and homeschooling my two children.  I also realized this year that it was time to move away from some friendships that were taking all my energy rather than filling it.  Moving away from these friendships has left my heart feeling a little sad, but it has also allowed me to see how much I need positive people in my life. 


    In July I posted, The Best Thing That Can Happen To Me is Happening Now.  I said, "I like where I am today.  I feel happy with who I have become over the years.  I like rejoicing in the small everyday events of my life that I didn't focus on as much before rheumatoid arthritis slowed me down.  I like that rheumatoid arthritis forced me to stop and think about the time and energy I spent doing "things".  I can now look at my day and decide what is really important to me and let everything else go.  Rheumatoid arthritis has helped me to focus on my goals in life and to let people and things that are filling voids in my life go so that I have room to give to those who are filling me to the brim with love, worthwhile experiences, and fun.    I have learned that it is okay to ask for help and that people actually want to be there for me.  I have built stronger relationships.  I have learned to eat in a way that is not only providing my rheumatoid arthritis some relief but also the stomach issues I have dealt with since I was a young girl.  I have discovered passions that revolve around food choices and health choices.  I have learned that everyone has a very unique path they need to follow and even though it may be quite different than my path, it doesn't mean it is wrong."


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    I hope that this coming year is a good year for you.  It may not mean an absence of pain, but hopefully a year of looking at the good that still surrounds you each day.  Thank you for reading and commenting on my posts in 2011.  Happy 2012!


    Cathy can also be found writing at her personal blogs The Life and Adventures of Cateepoo and Naturally Happy Being Me.



Published On: December 19, 2011