Thursday, October 1, 2015

Facing Forward - California Coast Classic Edition: Peggy

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.

Name: Peggy
Hometown: Studio City, CA
Diagnoses: tentatively diagnosed with RA or lupus
Age at Diagnoses: 45

Why is it important to you to participate in the California Coast Classic?
I had already ridden the CCC five times before I was diagnosed. I am one of those who did the ride the first time for the fun of it and then was converted to the cause because of the people I met and the stories I heard. A couple of years before my diagnosis, one of my long-time friends had her two year old diagnosed with JA and that pretty much clinched the deal for me.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced since your diagnosis?
The biggest challenge I've faced is dealing with all the doctors appointments and all the unknowns. I don't have a clear diagnosis (is it RA or is it lupus? Who knows?!?) so my doctor checks and double checks everything. I think he really doesn't want to miss something that might give us a clearer sense of what we're dealing with. So I've had stress tests and echocardiograms and a pulmonary hypertension scare - which thankfully seems to be unfounded. I've had a couple of MRIs, one showed inflammation in my hand and wrist, while the more recent one showed a "perfectly normal" elbow. I had the usual year and a half of "try this medicine for 4 weeks and then come see me again." Nothing really awful in itself but the cumulative effect has been to have me second guessing how healthy I am all the time! Gets exhausting.

How has your diagnoses made it more difficult for you to stay active?
When I was first diagnosed and, really, until I'd been on the methotrexate for a few months, I had pain in my hands and wrists that sometimes seemed to radiate clear up to my shoulder. That made riding my bike...interesting! It also made cooking, sewing, playing the piano, using my computer mouse at work, and even driving my car an adventure. 

What are some of your favorite tips and tricks for staying active with arthritis?
The best "trick" I have for staying active is to commit to something important - like the CCC. While we try to ride year round, we definitely ride more n the spring and summer when we're actively training. It is easier to tell myself to just ride even if it hurts a bit because I know I want to be ready for the CCC. I may have to ride a little slower on a bad day or change the route a bit to make things easier on my hands, but I still ride because "I'm training." I also have a friend I walk with because if she's counting on me to show up, I do.

How do you manage to keep facing forward every day?
I have so much to be thankful for - a doctor who really cares, a supportive family, all the support of my Arthritis Foundation and CCC friends, medicine that works(!), and at the moment relatively inactive disease. So I focus on the positive. Even my "bad" days are better than they used to be!

If you could go back to diagnosis day and tell your past self one thing, what would it be?
I was really blessed to already be involved with the Arthritis Foundation before I was diagnosed. I knew I was in for some challenges getting to a clear diagnosis and finding the right medicine or combination of medicines for me. But I think I would still say "take a deep breath and be patient." This is a marathon, not a spring - which is good 'cause I ride strong and steady, but not fast!

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