Friday, June 3, 2016

Facing Forward: Cathy

Facing Forward is a series that shares the lives of people living with arthritis and other invisible chronic 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: Cathy
Location: Naperville, IL
Diagnosis: Rheumatoid Arthritis, Raynaud's Disease
Age at Diagnosis: 36

How are you currently treating your condition?
My RA journey has included it all. I originally tried an integrative approach working with a rheumatologist and taking medications while also working with a naturopath on supplements and diet. Then for several years I used a natural approach only. Today I am back on medications (Enbrel and Leflunomide) and mostly follow a gluten free diet with low consumption of dairy and processed foods, although changes in lifestyle have upset that goal a bit recently.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced since your diagnosis?
My original symptoms came on strong and fast. It was extremely challenging to realize my once active body could struggle to lift a cup of tea or dreaded the five stairs to the restroom. My body was in this state for many years and I guess slowly it became my frame of mind so when I found a good combination of medications almost six years ago, I was hugely surprised that the transition back to a well person again would be so difficult. I found that my mind had become used to setting limits for myself and it took a while to get back into the swing of moving again.

What are your favorite tips and tricks for managing everyday tasks?
Ask for help. This was the hardest thing for me to learn but when you are in pain, your friends and family can't take that away. They need/want to help and when you allow it, you are helping both you and them.

How do you manage to keep facing forward every day?
I tend to look at the positive in every situation. "Wow. I am so lucky I didn't have this awful flare yesterday." Seeing the bright side of my current situation helps me to face forward and not dwell on the negative.

If you could go back to diagnosis day and tell your past self one thing, what would it be?
Rheumatoid arthritis is like a thunderstorm. A flare can get really bad and be extremely scary, but it always calms down. One more: "You don't know your own strength yet."

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