Coping and Advocacy: 2011 in Review
As the year draws to a close, your RA Community team gathered to reflect on the past year. It's been a year of changes, big projects and new faces.
We are part of a bigger site and as you may be aware, about a month ago Remedy Health took over HealthCentral. We see this as an exciting development, one that can expand the ways we reach our community and look forward to the journey in 2012. You may have noticed that our name has changed - we used to be MyRACentral, but are now the HealthCentral's RA Community. Just as a rose by any other name would not change what it is, neither will our community. We will continue to bring you the best information on what's happening in the RA field and articles and personal essays on how to live with RA.
In the past year, your Community team changed, as well. We have added a number of Contributors who each bring unique experiences and perspectives that help us help you better. We also said goodbye to Sara Nash, a longtime member of our team and wish her well on her future.
Healthy Coping Skills
Our theme for 2011 was developing healthy coping skills. We started with what happens in the beginning of your life with RA - the sometimes convoluted adventure of finding a rheumatologist who will give you a diagnosis, even though you would much rather stick your head in the sand. You don't just need a doctor who knows enough about RA to diagnose you, but also someone who will make you feel cared for, someone you can trust to be on your team. You need to get used to taking medications and sometimes having to inject yourself and talking to others who've been there is invaluable. Learning the basics of coping with RA can take a while and an important part of that journey can be to involve your spouse and your children in the process.
There are many aspects of learning to cope and to improve your life with RA. One of them is to learn to focus on your skills and gifts, embracing all the good within you. Getting staying active is also important - physical therapy can help and having a pet in your life can also be a terrific source of comfort and activity. For some of us, RA can make it difficult to move and using a mobility aid can be a terrific tool enabling you to keep living your life. This life might mean getting out of your hometown and it's important to know the ins and outs of traveling with medication.
Changes in Rheumatology
We are in the midst of a revolution in rheumatology. New discoveries are made about the disease and its treatment at a rate much faster than in the past. If you do have to have RA, now's a pretty good time to have it. This year, we reported on the role of vitamin D and stress in autoimmune diseases, as well as new knowledge about factors involved in triggering the immune response that leads to developing RA. Because of the advances in treatment caused by the Biologics medications, remission of RA is now increasingly possible. Because remission is possible, a new set of criteria have been developed to classify RA, as well as criteria to define remission in clinical studies which will help better assess new treatments.
Awareness and Advocacy
In the past year, HealthCentral's RA Community has spearheaded several awareness projects. In May, we celebrated Arthritis Awareness Month with four weeks worth of inspirational interviews, contests and other content related to bringing awareness to the issues facing people living with RA. Individually, our team members have also been active in raising awareness. Whether it is educating friends and family, calling for educating the world for the Bone and Joint Decade, lupus awareness or going to Washington DC to speak to Congress, our team was there. We also spoke up for children living with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (previously JRA), bringing you news about individuals working to raise funds for JIA through climbing mountains or playing the piano and scientists making RA research accessible for kids (check out our JIA special area for more on this disease).
In October, we launched an important project about domestic violence, chronic illness and disability. Writers from different HealthCentral communities wrote about the issue from the point of view of the condition in which they specialize. Karen Ager, author of Enemy Within, worked with us to bring attention to this little-discussed topic.
We have continued collaborating with individuals and organizations outside of HealthCentral to bring awareness about RA. Recently, we have started a project to help you educate others about the difference between RA and OA, joined by Tiffany Westrich of the International Autoimmune Arthritis Movement writing about what it's like to live with autoimmune arthritis.
We also very proud of our collaboration with the Dr. Phil and The Doctors shows that started in October for World Arthritis Day. As announced then, we continued working with the production company and most recently, I assisted in developing content about RA for their webpage for a segment on RA and OA in the December 19 show of The Doctors.
We have had a tremendously exciting year. At the beginning and the end of it all is you. Everything we do is with the goal of helping you live better with RA. You make coming to work a joy and an inspiration. We thank you for allowing us into your lives.
Lene is the author of the awared-winning blog The Seated View.