By sharing our own stories, we can offer hope and encouragement for others and let people with Rheumatoid Disease know that they are not alone in this fight. If you're interested in sharing your story, please visit our story page.
Tell us a little about yourself and your family -- where you're from, what you do, what your interests are, etc.
I'm a retired Foundation Phase teacher from Jeffreys Bay South Africa. I live with my husband and our 2 sons on our family farm. I'm an avid walker and swimmer and have many creative hobbies, all involving these precious hands of mine.
When were you diagnosed with RA/Rheumatoid Disease?
I was diagnosed with rheumatoid in 2012 at the age of 32, soon after the birth of my second son.
What was your first symptom?
My first symptom which I ignored for almost 10 years was weakness and stiffness in my hands and feet upon waking every morning for up to 15 to 20 minutes. I wasn't aware that this was actually a symptom of an autoimmune disease. It's for this reason that I am quite passionate about raising awareness for Rheumatoid Disease.
What is the biggest way rheumatoid disease has affected your life?
I'm tempted to say the biggest way RD has affected my life is my physical body, because the pain is unrelenting and all-consuming, but its biggest effect has been on my MIND! Because, it's a fight you need to face daily, one you cannot do without a positive mindset.
What has been your experience with treatments for rheumatoid disease?
In my experience, surround yourself with a supportive medical team, especially ones who are passionate about RD and getting to the gut of the matter. We already on so much medication, but make every effort to supplement correctly and to keep your diet as alkaline as possible, this will involve many changes, and will take you on a rollercoaster learning curve but I have found Clint Paddison from the Paddison Program (check it out) to be the most valuable mentor in this regard!
What do you want the public to know about rheumatoid disease?
That not all diseases are visible. The most common thing people say to me is that I don't look ill. Many don't understand what it takes for us to "look" and function normally, they don't realise how much we've had to sacrifice and how different our lives might have looked if we weren't robbed of our capacity. Having said that, we not asking for sympathy, but for support!
How have you worked to overcome challenges presented by rheumatoid disease?
Educate yourself. Watch your eating habits. Wake up earlier to have more time. Be more organised to avoid rushed situations. Don't be too proud to ask for help.
What have you learned through living with rheumatoid disease?
That there is always something to be grateful for. Also, even though RD is not the same as osteoarthritis, it has given me more compassion for my gran's generation who often need to deal with an impatient younger generation.
What encouragement or advice would you give to someone who is newly diagnosed?
Living with RD, change is inevitable. You'll be tempted to isolate yourself. Try to connect with other RD patients in your area or on social media platforms. you will need the encouragement. Get educated about dietary changes as soon as you can, but don't let all the information overwhelm you. Take on day at a time.
What else would you like to share?
RD comes with many sacrifices. Your loved ones need to be informed about how they can help you. I have found regular exercise, chiropractic visits, ozone treatments and juicing to be valuable in helping me cope. And, I've realised that we can never give up fighting if we want to live full, meaningful lives!