Rheumatoid Arthritis: Don't Tough It Out, Rein It In


Why is it important to continue to seek care during the pandemic? 

Rheumatoid arthritis doesn’t take a break, so it’s important to keep in touch with your rheumatologist, during the pandemic and any other time. Protect your body and the ability to live your life as much as you can.

What has been your experience with virtual care? Any tips for others? 

I’ve had a great experience with virtual care during the pandemic. It has saved me a lot of time and energy that normally goes to transit and wait time. Like with any doctor’s appointment, it helps to be prepared. Think about the main topics you want to cover during the appointment and write down your questions to help keep the conversation on track.

How has living with RA changed your life? What challenges have you overcome? Would you have a message of hope for others? 

Over my half a century with RA, I have learned that this condition ebbs and flows. Sometimes it takes over your life, at other times it’s in the background and the goal is for it to remain there. My life includes RA, but it is not defined by it. It helps to remember that I have RA — it doesn’t have me.


What is your RA story / journey? Can you briefly describe how you felt when you first experienced symptoms, what the diagnosis was like and where you are today? 

I started to experience pain in my small joints in my hands and feet around 24, I thought it was due to my job as an esthetician or because I needed to lose weight. My symptoms increased after the birth of my son when I was 27 - I couldn't wear my usual shoes anymore, my job became difficult and painful, I was constantly catching colds all the time, my mental health was struggling, I had trouble sleeping and was always tired. I thought it was because I was a new mom, working with a toddler, still needed to lose the baby weight or exercise more, eat healthier but it just kept getting worse. Eventually I requested a rheumatoid arthritis test from my family physician because of the history of the disease in my family. I am grateful I did because without proper treatment, developing self management skills, learning to exercise and my health care team I wouldn't be able to do some of the things I can do today, including everyday living activities to what I enjoy in my free time. 


Why is it important to advocate for yourself with your health care team? 

Your health care team cannot read your mind and RA is much more than just joint pain or inflammation markers on your labs. It is important to bring up all your symptoms, from mental health to physical, with your health care team regularly to make sure you are managing your illness well, getting enough support and your medications and treatments are right for you. There is no better advocate for your health than yourself. 


What advice would you give people newly diagnosed with RA? 

Tracking my health gave me such a deeper understanding of living with RA and my overall health. Doing so I was able to plan around my symptoms and treatments, have a better understanding of how my sleep, medications, pain, stress and mood impacted my everyday living. Keeping a symptom and treatment journal can help you take control of your health easier. 


How has living with RA changed your life? What challenges have you overcome? Would you have a message of hope for others? 

RA changed my life in so many ways, both for the worse and for the better. I value what's really important, those closest to me and take better care of myself. I learned to advocate for myself the way in which I needed to. 

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