We have come to the end of another year, and I can’t be the only person who feels it went by in six months instead of 12. Here on RAHealthCentral, we have packed a lot of life, a lot of talk, and a lot of information into 2016. It was all under the overarching umbrella of our annual theme Your #ChronicLife with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), which is about openly talking about the reality of living with chronic conditions. Please join me as I share memories of some of our most popular posts.
Relationships and sex
We kept it real when we wrote about how your chronic illness can affect relationships and sex. In an interview with Kira Lynne, we discussed dating and relationships. Anna shared tips to nurture your relationship, and Leslie shared her story of what happens when your condition contributes to a breakup.
Sex is an important part of a relationship, but chronic illness can present some unique challenges to physical intimacy. We spoke to Kirsten Schultz, the creator of Chronic Sex, a place for you to feel safe in talking about sex and chronic illness. Along the same theme, I also shared tips on masturbation with chronic pain and how to make pleasing yourself easier.
Another important part of a relationship is to take care of each other and that’s even more relevant when chronic illness is part of your lives. We shared Britt’s conversation with her husband about caregiving in a marriage and I talked to Leeza Gibbons about caring for the caregiver.
Pacing what you do and being good to yourself helps create a situation where you are well enough to do what you need to do. Self-care became an increasingly important topic in community discussions this year and we shared tips on how to practice self-compassion. It can be as simple as using technology to remember to drink enough water so you can improve your general health, or the more complex tasks around letting go of the guilt that can accommodate life with chronic illness. And of course, remembering to practice self-care during the holidays so you can really enjoy them.
Dealing with the disease
Taking care of your chronic condition is also an important part of practicing self-care. RA is a complicated disease that affects much more than the joints. We found out more about this when Glenn Frey died from complications of RA, something that felt very close to home for those of us who live with that disease. Following that news, we wrote about the complications and comorbidities of RA so you can protect yourself. But just in case, we also wanted to help you prepare for a medical crisis, which was based on my own personal experience of an unexpected trip to the ICU.
We also kept an eye on new research so you can know what’s coming down the pipe. We took a look at studies that show the importance of preventing an overdose of methotrexate. We also shared some great news on Biologics and cancer risks, and exciting research shedding light on the cause of RA.
Contrary to what many of us feel, exercise is not a four-letter word. Finding ways to move your body and build strength can help you live better with a chronic illness. Marianna’s information on what to do when you don’t want to exercise can get you more active, I wrote about the ways a dietitian can help you make good food choices that could improve your RA, and Britt shared her experience of putting together a good food and exercise plan with RA. And at the end of it all, if you want to try doing something more than exercising by yourself, Anna wrote about beginner-friendly races that can help you stay active.
We need to work, both to pay the bills and to participate in the world, but RA can put some obstacles in the way. It can be difficult finding a job. Once you are working, you may need accommodations to make the physical part of work easier for you, and sometimes that can cause resentment from your coworkers. We gave you information to deal with all of that, as well as how to nurture self-worth when RA makes it impossible to work.
Dealing with other people and policy
We also dove into advocacy and awareness efforts regarding life with chronic illness. I wrote about what to do and not do when others don’t believe you have a chronic illness and Marianna shared tips on how to cope if people judge you because of your RA. We took it one step further and looked at some of the political forces affecting treatment. Britt got very real when she wrote about how the war on opioids affects her health, and I shared information about efforts to restrict the options for treatment by restricting the availability of Biologics.
Thank you for spending this past year with us. See you in 2017* * *
Lene’s new book isChronic Christmas: Surviving the Holidays with a Chronic Illness. She is also the author ofYour Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis: Tools for Managing Treatment, Side Effects and Pain,7 Facets: A Meditation on Pain, and the award-winning blogThe Seated View.
Lene Andersen is the Community Leader for HealthCentral’s RA Community. Lene (pronounced Lena) is an award-winning writer, health and disability advocate, and photographer living in Toronto. She’s written several books, including Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis: Tools for Managing Treatment, Side Effects and Pain, and 7 Facets: A Meditation on Pain, as well as the award-winning blog, The Seated View. Follow Lene on Twitter @TheSeatedView and on Facebook. Watch her story on HealthCentral.