2013 Wrap Up: Engage and Empower
What a year it’s been! Twelve months ago, we announced the theme of 2013 on RAHealthCentral to be Engage and Empower. Our goal was to publish content that would help empower you to be an active participant in your medical care and your life, to give you the knowledge you need is to take control and feel comfortable doing so. Throughout this year, we wanted to do our part to strengthen the community, so we can continue building it together. Today, I’d like to share some of the highlights from the past year.
Living with RA
The RAHealthCentral team members shared their personal experiences of important aspects of living with RA. One of our proudest accomplishments this year was the RA and Physical Activity video, where we all showed you how we stay physically active, with different levels of RA.
Complementary and alternative therapies are becoming an increasingly hot topic in the RA community. We posted about the importance of making wise choices with conventional and complementary therapies. Diet is also often a part of how people with RA manage their symptoms and we explored the role of nutrition in fighting chronic illness, as well as the role vitamin D deficiency plays in disease activity.
We also wrote posts about making medication choices, learning about medication safety and the importance of finding a good primary care physician. We also shared practical tips, such as establishing health care when you move and staying cool in the summer. Many of us have trouble doing every day tasks, due to fatigue and pain, especially in our hands, so we posted tips for cooking and entertaining and alternatives to typing.
Living with a chronic illness like RA can be very stressful, so we published posts to help improve the quality of your life. We wrote about kindness and humor and how to talk to insurance companies (something that can definitely require a sense of humor!). Fighting depression can be a significant component of living with RA and we brought you stories on coming out of the darkness and into gratitude, how to survive flares and avoid depression, thinking about your legacy and the role art can play in mental health.
Deepening Knowledge about RA
We brought you articles about cutting-edge research to treat the disease, such as news about triple therapy and its effects on RA, as well as comparisons of anti-TNF blockers and which tend to be used longer. In one of my favorite studies of this year, we discovered that there have been huge improvements in the physical and psychological health of people with RA over the past 20 years.
Living with RA isn’t just about RA — it’s important to be aware of a number of other health issues you may encounter. Through almost losing one of our team, we learned a lot about RA and lung diseases and the importance of pneumonia and flu vaccines. This was a reminder to be prepared so you’re safe in a potential health crisis. We also learned about living with RA and other conditions, such as RA and lupus and what to do if you have sleep apnea.
Advocacy is an important part of the lives of many people with RA. HealthCentral is right there with you, working hard to create awareness of the disease, to correct misperceptions and increase understanding of RA. We were very proud of the opportunity to provide information about juvenile arthritis to the audience of the Dr. Oz Show.
We want to tell compelling stories of how the community helps each other with advocacy efforts, from the big, to smaller, every day initiatives. We took you to the Arthritis Foundation’s Advocacy Summit in Washington DC, told you about Rheumatoid Awareness Day and traveled virtually to two exciting conferences, one on Juvenile Arthritis (thanks to Britt J. Johnson for being our special correspondent!), the other for Women in Pain.
Advocacy is also about what happens in the everyday, things we do to help each other on a personal level. Community mentoring is an important part of the RA community and the CreakyJoints organization is walking the talk with their new memoir course. We also gave you the perspective of someone who participated in the first course.
People and Books
Hearing other people’s stories and finding new books can be an important part of learning to live well with RA. This year we brought you stories of inspiring people. Mischelle Jackson has experienced the health care system from both sides – she’s a nurse who lives with RA. Joy Ross lost her sight because of JA and raises two daughters who also have JA in a joyful way that lives up to her name. Mary Turner told us what it’s like to live with HIV and RA.
We also shared reviews of good books and interviews with the people who wrote them. These included Cynthia Toussaint, whose book Battle For Grace: a Memoir of Pain, Redemption and Impossible Love tells the story of her battle with Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome. A terrific new book called Living with Juvenile Arthritis: a Parent’s Guide is a must-have for parents of kids with JA. Danea Horn`s Chronic Resilience: 10 Sanity-Saving Tools for Women Coping with the Stress of Illness is an invaluable book to help you get a handle on life. And lastly, I was thrilled when it was decided to included review of my new book Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis: Tools for Managing Treatment, Side Effects and Pain on the site, as well.
We hope you have enjoyed the journey through the past year with us. We look forward to sharing 2014 with you!
Lene is the author of Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis: Tools for Managing Treatment, Side Effects and Pain. Her new book is 7 Facets: A Meditation on Pain. Her personal blog is The Seated View.