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 visitour story page.
First, tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is David St. Martin and I am from Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. When I’m not working full-time, I enjoy spending time with my daughter and participating in outdoor activities such as kayaking, sailing, scuba diving, indoor rock climbing and more. Throughout childhood, I was in and out of hospitals and in and out having to use a wheelchair, graduating high school as a wheelchair user.
When were you diagnosed with RA/Rheumatoid Disease?
I was diagnosed with systemic, polyarticular Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis at age 2, more than 4 decades ago.
What was your first symptom?
The onset of my disease appeared as rash on my trunk, along with high fevers and joint pain, primarily in my hands and knees. Severe joint deformities occurred so rapidly that I became wheelchair bound.
What is the biggest way rheumatoid disease has affected your life?
I consider myself lucky. Lucky that I was so young when diagnosed. Since I have experienced pain and deformities throughout my life, I am unable to fully imagine my life without the disease. On a daily basis, my mobility is compromised, my activity can be limited, and daily pain fluctuates. A person with Rheumatoid Disease quickly becomes acutely aware of their body and how weather, activity, diet, sleep and other variables may affect it – sometimes on an hour-by-hour basis.
What has been your experience with treatments for rheumatoid disease?
Back in the late 60s, early 70s, my treatment consisted of gold injections, aspirin and experimental anti-inflammatory medications in conjunction with rigorous physical therapy consisting of stretches, heat/cold therapy and paraffin baths. In my teens, prednisone was introduced to mitigate pericarditis and surgeries began in my 20s. Surgeries consisted of but, not limited to, total knee and total hip replacements. Today, my disease is sufficiently controlled by prescription pain medication and an over the counter anti-inflammatory.
What do you want the public to know about rheumatoid disease?
Rheumatoid Arthritis is not a bone or joint disease. It is not your grandparent’s deformed hands or the sports person’s sore knees. RA (or Rheumatoid Disease) is a chronic, systemic autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks organs and joints causing damage that may result in severe pain, deformity, organ failure and sometimes death. Remission is rare and currently there is no cure. Millions of adults and tens of thousands of children, including infants in the United States have a form of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Personally, Rheumatoid Disease has affected most of my joints from my neck to my toes and has also involved my heart and eyesight.
How have you worked to overcome challenges presented by rheumatoid disease?
I consistently try to not let my disease define me. I do my best to live like someone who just happens to have RD. Admittedly not well, I try to eat healthy, sleep well and follow my numerous physician’s recommendations. I also push myself to experience life as best I can. Several years ago, I decided to change my “disability” into “ability” and participate in outdoor activities. Working with several organizations that assist the disabled, I have had the opportunity to sail, kayak, rock climb, water ski and even became certified in Scuba Diving.
What encouragement or advice would you give to someone who is newly diagnosed?
Do your best to not dwell on the past. Try not to focus on what you have lost, instead focus on what you are still able to do. Try to accept your new “normal”. Do not be afraid to ask for help. Talk with a counselor, family, clergy and friends. Every day, try something new. Whether it’s adventurous as kayaking or as simple as getting out of bed. Rheumatoid Disease isn’t the end but, it is a new beginning.