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 am a 32 year old mother of 2 boys, ages 10 and 3. I am engaged to my love of 5+ years and I am a LVN. I am Kansas born, but Texas raised. I grew up in East Texas, but recently relocated to the DFW. I enjoy reading and listening to a host of different podcasts. I also enjoy watching baseball and basketball, especially when I get to watch my boys.
When were you diagnosed with RA/Rheumatoid Disease?
I was diagnosed with Systemic Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis at age 13.
What was your first symptom?
The very first symptom I experienced was a swollen left knee.
What is the biggest way rheumatoid disease has affected your life?
Rheumatoid Arthritis has affected every part of my life and every major decision or event that I have experienced. The biggest way it affected my life was by wreaking irreversible havoc on my joints, leading to 3 total joint replacements and a revision by the age of 31.
What has been your experience with treatments for rheumatoid disease?
Over the years, I have tried almost all of the "big name" drugs. My experience has been positive at times, and negative at others. My treatment regimen began with high dose IV steroid infusions, and ultimately this lead to the rapid decline of my joints and bilateral total joint replacements before my 17th birthday. On the other hand, Humira and methotrexate have been my tag team duo and they have protected me for several years now.
What do you want the public to know about rheumatoid disease?
Rheumatoid Arthritis does not have to stop you from doing the things you want to do and living your dreams. Becoming a nurse was something I never thought I could do, simply because of the issues I had with my joints and pain. With careful monitoring and an awesome Rheumatologist, I was able to stay pretty controlled for the past few years.
How have you worked to overcome challenges presented by rheumatoid disease?
Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis for me has meant becoming an expert at improvising. There are some things I cannot easily do, like going up stairs or getting in and out of my car...but I find ways to do things that works for me. I have had to put my life on hold several times for surgeries and recovery, but I surround myself with my amazing village and I don't have to do everything on my own, or worry about accommodations.
What have you learned through living with rheumatoid disease?
I have learned that I have to live with purpose. I have learned to not limit myself or my goals. I have learned to live with pain, but to also stay positive in all that I do, because that positivity spills into my family.
What encouragement or advice would you give to someone who is newly diagnosed?
It is not the end of life. It is a long road ahead, but if you take good care of yourself and get under the care of a good Rheumatologist, you will still be able to live a full and rewarding life....and NEVER EVER pity yourself. Take your situation and make the very best of it.
What else would you like to share?
I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis 19 years ago. I went through puberty and young adulthood sick and confused. I have had so many things in my life be affected by this disease, but I chose to not let that limit what my future would look like. I was told at a very young age that I would likely not have any children. Now, almost 20 years later, I have 2 beautiful and healthy little boys. I pushed myself and was able to make my dream of becoming a nurse a reality, and although it was not and is not easy, I work everyday to be the absolute best nurse I can be. I try to channel the energy of some of my past nurses that were absolutely wonderful to me when I am with my patients. I try to encourage anyone that suffers from RA that this is not the end. Write your own story as I have.