RPF believes that sharing our own personal stories about living with rheumatoid disease is a great way to provide support for others. Knowing we are not alone in our experiences can be one of the most encouraging things. We thank our supporters who are willing to share their stories and help others who are going through similar situations. Let's learn from one another! Click here to share your story.
Introduction: Tell us a little bit about yourself (name, where you live, interests, hobbies, etc.)
My name is Maria Robles. I live in Portage, Indiana, I was born in Mexico City and I came to The United States on December of 1990. I was an elementary teacher back in Mexico and I am a Spanish Teacher in High School since 2006 in Hammond, Indiana. I love to read, dance, travel and spend time with my family. I like to get involved as much as I can in school activities especially when it is for good cause like rising money for the people in need, when my school participates in walking for cancer, etc.
When were you diagnosed with RA/Rheumatoid Disease?
I was diagnosed in March of 2011, but I think I had it for a long time because by then my left hip was messed up to the point that I had to have a total hip replacement in June of 2011.
What was your first symptom?
In December of 2011 I had this strong pain in my left arm; I couldn’t lift my arm and the pain was so bad that I thought I was having a heart attack. So, I went to emergency and they took an X-Ray and gave me pain killers but it didn’t help. I had the pain for 2 days and it went away; then, I started having pain in my knees first one side then the other side. On March of 2011 I woke up one day with my hands stiff, red and swollen, so I went to my doctor and he sent me to the hospital to do blood work. That is when they told me to see a rheumatologist.
What is the biggest way rheumatoid disease has affected your life?
I can tell my life before and after RA. I used to be very independent and always doing everything by myself. Now when I can’t move my arm, my hand, etc., I have to ask for help to my family to dress up, to go to bed, to open things, sometimes even to eat, and also at school I have to ask some students to write for me on the board, to help me with some grading, etc.
What has been your experience with treatments for rheumatoid disease?
I started with methotrexate from April 2011 to November of the same year but after many flare ups my doctor added Enbrel. Sometimes I take Prednisone, as well. It works for me; I also take folic acid, vitamin D, multivitamins, fish oil, biotin and any other vitamin I can get.
What do you want the public to know about rheumatoid disease?
I want to educate people about the disease; I want them to understand that is more than just arthritis, that the pain is unbearable, that even
when they see me acting like nothing happened or nothing is going on, I am worry everyday if the next day I will be OK or I will be able to even brush my teeth. I want people to know that I go to work many times in pain because if I stay home it will be like I gave up on my life because the only thing I have is the strength, my family and my students. I worked so hard to get my career, my profession in this Country. It means that I am leaving the dream of being a teacher and accomplish something as an immigrant coming to The United States not knowing the language. I want people to know that if you let this illness to be stronger than you, you have nothing in life.
How have you worked to overcome challenges presented by rheumatoid disease?
Believing that God works in mysterious ways and there has to be a reason that I have to go thru this illness. I thank God for the days with no pain and for the days with pain as well. I do the many things that I have to do every day especially for my school on time and ahead of time so if the next day I can’t move a least I have thing done; also at home I clean and do chores as much as I can and if I am in pain I try not to worry about it and I rest and take care of me. I am very lucky because my husband’s mom had RA and my husband took care of her, so now he knows how to take of me, and my children and brother are very good with me. They help me as much as they can and support me 100%.
What encouragement or advice would you give to someone who is newly diagnosed?
First thing I will say don’t question God or get upset with HIM. Get treatment and take the medicines as prescribed and on time; read and get information on the medicines, the proper food and the proper exercise. Don’t get stressed for simple thing or for anything; think about you and your health before others. It sounds selfish, but it’s not. If you are not OK and well you can’t help your family or take care of them. Get support from your family and tell them to get inform about your illness so they can understand how to help you. Be positive and enjoy life as much as you can, especially on your free pain days. Now that I learned that my 22 years old daughter has RA I have to be stronger for her and I pray that one day we will find the cure.