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 originally from Kennetcook, a small community in Nova Scotia, but have lived most of my life in Halifax, NS. I’m 42 years old and single, with 1 super needy cat (that drives me crazy and keeps me sane all at the same time) and a large family (immediate and extended) that have helped me quite a bit since my diagnosis. I spent most of my career in the Hospitality and Banking industries but am currently on disability, which has been quite an adjustment. All things health and wellness related have become my main hobby over the past few years, from researching nutrition & fasting to trying different therapies & yoga.
When were you diagnosed with RA/Rheumatoid Disease?
I was officially diagnosed on August 17, 2017, although my symptoms began around December 2016.
What was your first symptom?
I developed chest pain after a bad fall in my driveway (landed flat on my back), which gradually moved to the joints/muscles in my right, then left shoulders/arms. Everything snowballed from there.
What is the biggest way rheumatoid disease has affected your life?
It’s taken a great deal of my independence from me & my ability to support myself financially. My dominant hand/wrist is the most affected which has made it nearly impossible to work. My body feels worn out/tired most of the time and there are also days I’m unable to even walk.
What has been your experience with treatments for rheumatoid disease?
I haven’t had a lot of luck with treatment yet. I began with Methotrexate and Prednisone which actually helped, but I had to stop MTX because my liver enzymes were elevated. I was then placed on Plaquenil which didn’t work for me at all and gave me constant headaches and my liver enzymes did not improve so I was then switched to a Biologic. It took 2 months for Pharmacare to approve coverage of the biologic for me, so that also meant that my only course of treatment for 2 months was prednisone. The Biologic is working well enough that I was able to cut out prednisone (after having been on & off of it for a full year), but I’m still not well enough to work, so I’ve just added MTX back into the mix & will continue to monitor my liver enzymes with monthly bloodwork to see how that goes. I have also tried physiotherapy, massage therapy and chiropractors and just recently saw an acupuncturist, but those treatments are all very costly & not covered through disability or Pharmacare so my ability to see anything through is very limited.
What do you want the public to know about rheumatoid disease?
That even the smallest or simplest of tasks can be exhausting, and that just because someone doesn’t look unwell, doesn’t mean they’re not in pain or struggling. I often need to take a break or two just to cook a meal, even if that’s the only thing I’ve had to do that day.
How have you worked to overcome challenges presented by rheumatoid disease?
I have had to learn how to do everyday tasks differently like brushing my teeth with my left hand, dressing, or finding gadgets to help with food prep because I can’t open a jar or shred cheese or cut my food. Since I’m not employed, I also try to make plans at least four days out of each week just to get out of the house to socialize & move.
What have you learned through living with rheumatoid disease?
I’ve learned that it’s important to take our health into our own hands and be our own advocates - ask lots of questions, and it’s okay to question the answers.
What encouragement or advice would you give to someone who is newly diagnosed?
That you’re not alone and support is available if you seek it out, and although some days it will be hard, having a positive mindset can make a world of difference...but having a bad day is okay, too.