Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Facing Forward: Heather

Facing Forward is a series that shares the lives of people living with arthritis and other invisible illnesses. The goal of the series is to see how we are similar and how we are different – and to remind us to keep moving forward because we aren’t alone!  

Name: Heather
Location: Rhode Island
Diagnosis: rheumatoid arthritis
Age at Diagnosis: 27

How are you currently treating your condition?
I currently take Enbrel on a weekly basis, as well as Plaquenil and Diclofenac (NSAID) twice a day. For the most part, they work really well at controlling my symptoms. Unfortunately, this winter has been really rough because it was my daughter's first year in daycare and she continuously brought home illnesses all winter long. Because of the immune suppression that comes along with taking Enbrel, I kept getting sick, and then I couldn't take my Enbrel for a week and I'd be in agonizing pain, then would take it and just turn around and get sick again. It has been a vicious cycle. 

What are the biggest challenges you have faced since your diagnosis?
The biggest challenge I faced since being diagnosed was trying to get pregnant with RA - between the effects of the medications (not even methotrexate, but the diclofenac - did you know that taking NSAIDs of any kind can delay ovulation, even if you take 1 ibuprofen to manage a headache - yeah, me neither, and I was taking them twice a day...) and physically being able and willing to have sex with my husband, it was a trying time. Our first attempt took us nine months, and then ended in a miscarriage at 10 weeks. I was convinced it had something to do with the Enbrel so I stayed off of it while trying again and used prednisone to take the edge off for another five months until I got pregnant. I had a very easy pregnancy and birth, which resulted in a beautiful little girl, who is now almost 19 months old. It's been a rough ride raising her, and one thing that the RA has influenced was my decision not to have any more children. She will be my only child. 

What are your favorite tips and tricks for managing everyday tasks?
I've been really lucky that most everyday tasks I can manage while on my medication. If I can't manage something, like opening a jar, I ask my husband to help and he is obviously more than willing. I have learned to schedule my commute so that I end up being able park in a closer parking lot that doesn't involve walking way up a hill. And I always rest when I need to - sleep is my friend.

How do you manage to keep facing forward every day?
My daughter keeps me smiling all day everyday - she just has the brightest personality that is infectious. And my husband - he was with me before my diagnosis and has been there every step of the way through this journey. Plus he makes me laugh about having RA a lot. I also subscribe to the notion that everything happens for a reason - so I'll just sit back and see where it takes me.

If you could go back to diagnosis day and tell your past self one thing, what would it be?
It's scary now, but you'll figure it out. You have a ton of people who love you and care for you and they will be there when you need them the most.

Do you have a blog you would like to share? 
Fighting The Invisible. I am the world's worst blogger, but there are a couple of posts there on my experiences.

Would you like to be featured on Facing Forward? If so, please send an email to

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