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!
This special edition of Facing Forward shares the stories of the individuals involved in the Arthritis Foundation’s 15th Annual California Coast Classic – a 525 mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
Hometown: Grand Haven, Michigan
Diagnosis: psoriatic arthritis
Age at Diagnosis: 37
Why is it important to you to participate in the California Coast Classic?
I've wanted to ride the west coast for years now. I discovered the Arthritis Foundation through this ride and learned that they are doing some good things - so this was a good way to accomplish a life goal and also help others. I have a few young patients living with arthritis so I am riding for them.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced since your diagnosis?
I’ve always been a “physical” person – skiing, whitewater kayaking, biking, gymnastics, pole vaulting – lots of activities. I don’t like limitations. My biggest challenge has been being able to continue working and earning a living as a dentist. At one point I thought I would have to sell my practice and "retire" in my early forties. It's a long story - but I'm still working.
How has your diagnosis made it more difficult for you to stay active?
I’m still very active – that is part of the key for me. I workout regularly, but I’ve modified it big time!
What are some of your favorite tips and tricks for staying active with arthritis?
In two words: diet and exercise. (OK – medication also). I've done my own research on a number of different nutrition perspectives, including Dr. Weil, Joe Dillon, and Chris Johnson. From these perspectives I've adopted a diet that really works for me. It is low gluten and includes a large amount of probiotics. Every morning I have a protein fruit drink with wheat grass and chia seeds. I also take fish oil. I believe that food is a drug and we need l use it in a positive way. Controlling my diet allows me to minimize medications as much as possible. I also spend 45 minutes stretching every morning to help myself get moving - plus a good aerobic and resistance workout.
If you could go back to diagnosis day and tell your past self one thing, what would it be?
I would say that this is not the end. When I was diagnosed I could barely walk down the aisle to get married - now I'm riding my bike down the California coast. I will say that dealing with stress is still a challenge. While doctors will help with the medical part, I think it's very important to find someone to talk to for emotional support. I would hope others may learn from this – I have really worked/studied hard to retain a “normal” life! I’m not always the most positive person around honestly – I try to stay on the sunny side of life! It’s not over just yet!