I was just past 30 when I figured out that something was not quite right.
I was intensely tired all the time, and often felt dizzy in the afternoons. It was almost like clockwork. After lunch, I would feel like the flu was coming on, but by later in the day, it was gone.
I had some swelling and morning stiffness in my feet, but I rationalized—as did my family doctor--that it was because I'm very active and ran long distances—it was routine for me to do a one-to-two-hour run on weekends.
It wasn’t until my fingers became swollen to the point of not being able to bend them, that I began to realize I was dealing with something bigger than I thought.
No amount of aspirin or Tylenol Arthritis was making my symptoms go away. That's when I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
As I mentioned, if not for my diagnosis, I wouldn’t work for myself. But I also wouldn’t get to meet other amazing patients, healthcare providers, researchers and people who work in charities.
The truth is that I have had so many wonderful experiences because of my diagnosis.
Sure, I wish I didn’t have RA, but I can’t change that. What I hope people learn from me is that living a full life with RA is possible. Yes, I’ve had a very different journey from many other people living with RA – we are all special in our story – but I have sincerely tried to make the most from it, to learn from it, and to try to spread the word about arthritis at different levels.
I also believe that anyone living with RA can be an advocate, whether it’s for themselves, for others, in your own city, or at a higher level, Anyone and everyone has a voice.
You learn how important it is to take care of yourself and listen to your body--I have stuck with my medications even through side effects. I continue to exercise (Hey, I’ve run the Chicago Marathon since my diagnosis), and I’ve managed in some capacity to continue to do all of the things I love. Yes, I get extremely tired, but I want to see each day as a gift.
Lastly, even though RA is an awful disease that is not within your control, your attitude and how you choose to live your life is.
Never forget that.