Back in my 30's, I worked out four or five times a week and would take long bike rides with my husband and kids. But then exercise became more difficult. My energy levels got lower and lower. My knee was sore.
I thought maybe I wasn’t stretching enough before and after workouts. Then I noticed swelling in my fingers at night. And my feet hurt. I thought maybe it was just my shoes,
But everything happened very fast, from swollen fingers at night to, only four months later, not being able to walk down the stairs.
I remember I would keep the phone next to my bed--this was before everyone had cell phones--because I thought I might wake up in the morning after my husband left for work and discover that I couldn't move any more.
You just have no idea how far it's going to go. That was the scariest part for me.
When I was first diagnosed, my kids were six and eight, and the hardest thing, as the symptoms became worse, was that I started having to ask them for help. Just everyday kinda mom things in the kitchen became a struggle.
Another thing that was really hard was that things I enjoyed doing with the kids--we would skip together or race each other to the car--I wasn't able to do any more. And they picked up on that right away.
They wanted to help me. But they were at an age where it was hard to ask them not to have fun with me.
My RA had a big impact on my job, too. I teach English as a second language at a community college, and it got to the point where it really affected almost everything I did in the classroom.
I’ve had a lot of ups and downs with RA over the last 11 years, from periods of severe symptoms to periods of remission. Often, just when I think I have RA under control and I can physically do all I set my mind to do, I’ll have a flare and it will set me back.
But I've learned that I have amazing strength, that I am capable of taking a really tough situation and turning it into something I can handle well.
This has made me a stronger person. I feel more sure of myself in what I do in life, and when I don’t, I’ve learned to slow down and reach out to my network of family and friends.
I’m most proud of sharing the positive side of RA as a long-time blogger. When I started this journey, I searched high and low for stories of people doing well while living with RA. But I couldn’t find any. So, I started my own blog, "The Life and Adventures of Cateepoo," in 2008, mainly as a way to work out my feelings about my RA.
A lot of people actually stop blogging when they get better, but it’s been important to me to share my voice when I’m feeling well. My hope has been that someone who’s struggling will read my blog and see that while life with RA can be rough, it can also be good.
I want people to find strength in themselves so they can advocate for their own health and follow their hearts.
So, find the best in your situation. RA has given us the opportunity to slow down.