Next time your alarm goes off and you start to talk yourself out of going for a run, think about Sarah-Ginny, and get your pain-free butt out of bed!
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis? Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease that affects primarily, but not only, the joints. A very basic explanation of this disease is that your immune system begins attacking itself and causing damage to your own body and destroying healthy tissue.
There is no cure for RA, but in some cases (for instance mine) you can slow the progression or even stop it. I was 30 when I was diagnosed, so I have longer for this disease to progress, and that alone motivates me to try and get healthy so that I can help keep the RA from getting worse.
When were you diagnosed? I was diagnosed in May 2012. My youngest child was six months old and I knew something was not right with my body. I never suspected anything like RA, (to be honest I thought it was something that only the elderly struggled with, not a 30 year old mother of 3). I thought it was something involving my hormones after giving birth.
I went to the doctor, complaining of pain and tiredness. They ran lots of tests, and a few days later I got a call from the nurse saying, "Your tests results came back and it looks like you've tested positive for Rheumatoid Arthritis." I remember thinking it was a bizarre thing to just say over the phone. It was like she called me and said "Nice weather we're having, huh?"
I was asked to come back for more testing because, not only is the disease different for everyone, but the tests are also confusing. Sometimes you test positive when you are negative, and sometimes you test negative when you are positive. SO I still had hope that my positive test was really a negative. I then went to see a Rheumatologist (where I am the youngest patient by about 30 years) and after more tests and x-rays he confirmed that I have RA. I asked for a summer break before starting the medicine so I could wean my son, and truthfully, so I would have some time to wrap my mind around what this all meant.
I began researching this disease and instantly realized that it would not be getting better or go away. In fact, the medicine doesn't even make you feel better; it just keeps you from feeling worse. So every morning I wake up and my first thought is, I hurt. It takes a great deal of mental willpower to get yourself out of bed each day. But when you have three kids looking to you for EVERYTHING, staying in bed is not an option.
So while I took a few months to wean the baby, I looked around for "alternatives." I was so overwhelmed with the "eat-this not-this" diets that people claimed made them better. For every diet cure out there I found another that disputed the first and said theirs was the better the option. I did figure one thing out quickly - moving helps. As much as it hurts to move, everyone agreed that it helps. The thing with getting up and moving is the more you move and the stronger you get, the better you feel during the day.
What were/are some of your symptoms? How do they affect your day to day life? A person with RA has stiff and swollen joints, typically starting in the hands and feet and spreading throughout the body. I have arthritis in my hands, feet, knees, and possibly hips. I am not able to use my hands for small things like helping my kids with crafts because I have a hard time if there are small pieces or scissors involved. Also, as a result of the RA, I have developed fibromyalgia in my upper back.
One of the worst symptoms is the extreme exhaustion. I can sleep for a full night and wake up feeling as if I haven't slept at all. I toss and turn all night because it hurts to lie down. When I wake up, I know just the simple act of putting my feet on the ground is really going to hurt.
Imagine waking up each morning feeling like you didn't stretch before an intense workout the day before, then you stood in line for the rest of the day wearing high heels, and then you didn't sleep the whole night. But there was no workout, no standing in line, and you did get a full night's sleep. You are just living your day-to-day life with RA.
How has being active been beneficial to your well being? I started walking the bridges in town with Baby B in the stroller. Then I started a diet using the Herbalife shakes, because losing weight and exercise is the best place to start when faced with most health issues. Then I started working out with my friend Martine, and I noticed that I was feeling better and I had more energy. Then she brought up the idea of doing a 5k and I thought that was a great idea. I liked the idea of having a goal to work towards. So I signed up and began to purposely train instead of just going for a walk to see a pretty view of the ocean.
I soon realized the 5k was almost a year to the day that I was diagnosed. It felt so great to cross that finish line, to accomplish that goal. I wasn't even the last person to finish! I felt like the past year of figuring out how to not let this disease control me was complete.
Occasionally, I will have bad flares and I know that I need to slow down and rest. But if I can lessen the frequency of the flares by staying active and improving my endurance by running - why shouldn't I give it a try? Not only do I love the physical effects of running, but it really puts me in a better mood overall, and I love that feeling.
What are some of your future goals? My goals are to keep my RA from progressing and for me and my family to live a healthy life. I will always have RA, but I want to work towards a life where that description is low on the list of things that I am known for. I don't want to ever have to say that I can't do something because I have RA.
These days, I am homeschooling my two oldest kids with the third running around us in circles. I haven't quite figured out how to run/walk with the kids, but I am trying. For me, the hardest challenge of living with RA is not letting it control me. This means not skipping a workout because my feet really hurt or everything hurts so bad it hurts to be touched. I know my body and I am learning my new limits so I know when to take a rest and when to suck it up and put one foot in front of the other.
I would love to works towards completing a longer race, specifically the Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston, S.C. When I was younger, there was an elderly couple in our church in Charleston that would participate in that race every year, and it amazed me. Being 80 didn't stop them, so why should feeling like an 80 year old stop me?
|Sarah & Baby B |
(photo courtesy of Sarah-Ginny)