Sunday, March 8, 2015

Facing Forward: Mariah

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: Mariah           
Location: Louisville, Colorado
Diagnoses: rheumatoid arthritis (RA); Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
Age at Diagnoses: RA at age 25; Hashimoto’s at age 5

How are you currently treating your conditions?
I’ve been taking replacement thyroid hormones for my Hashimoto’s since I was in kindergarten. For my RA I take methotrexate (when I am not pregnant or planning to get pregnant). I have also tried Remicade (which never really worked for me) and Enbrel (which worked very well for me for years.) Unfortunately, the Enbrel recently stopped being as effective, so I am currently in the process of trying Orencia. While I wait for the Orencia to (hopefully!) kick in, I've been relying a lot on prednisone and hydrocodone - which I really don't like to do. My rheumatologist and I are working together to find a combination of medications that I am happy with, but it will take some more time and patience.

I get most of my exercise chasing my two boys around (ages 2.5 years and 7 months), but I also try to get to the pool once or twice a week. Though I know many people do see improvement in their symptoms from making changes to their diets, this has not ever worked for me (even though I tried being gluten-free for 6 months). But I do try to eat as healthy as possible! I also take a couple supplements: folic acid (to help with methotrexate nausea) and a fish/flax omega-3 (a natural anti-inflammatory).

What are the biggest challenges you have faced since your diagnosis?
Getting my symptoms well enough under control to graduate from law/graduate school was certainly a challenge, but I think the very biggest challenge I have faced in my life with RA has been the decision to have children. I dealt with RA that was not fully treated for more than four years to safely bring our two little boys into the world - and I felt beyond alone in the world while I did it. There were very few supportive resources out there for women with autoimmune issues who wanted to get pregnant or breastfeed. While I offer understanding and support to everyone living with a chronic illness, I have a very special place in my heart for the mamas, mamas-to-be, and those who want to become mamas - and I have been fighting hard ever since to support these brave women! 

What are your favorite tips and tricks for managing everyday tasks?
My biggest everyday challenge is usually getting dinner on the table - because cooking dinner generally happens at the end of the day when the kids are cranky and I am hurting and out of energy. I rely a lot on big batch cooking, where I prepare a lot of meals on days when I am feeling up for it and then I have healthy meals ready for my family on the days when I don't have energy at the end of the day. Some of my favorite types of big batch meals to freeze include lasagna, meatloaf, and crockpot meals!

How do you manage to keep facing forward every day?
My boys - all three of them! My husband has been holding my hand every step of the way since the very first pain in my toes, well over six years ago. I never could have gotten to where I am today without his love and support. Our two-year-old is curious and super silly and always has something to say that makes me smile. He is getting old enough to start understanding that sometimes mama doesn't feel well, and he's always ready to offer a hug! And our seven-month-old is the world's happiest baby, full of smiles and giggles (and slobber!) Sometimes I just hold him and breathe in his sweet baby smell and it refreshes my mind. Also our loving dog River, whose snuggles at the end of every day help me relax. Loving my family is the reason I keep moving forward, not matter how I feel physically.

If you could go back to diagnosis day and tell your past self one thing, what would it be?
This diagnosis will absolutely change you - but not for the worse.

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