Friday, July 1, 2016

Facing Forward: Jen

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: Jen
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Diagnosis: Rheumatoid Arthritis
Age at Diagnosis: I was diagnosed two years ago at age 34.  I had been having joint pain, fatigue, and intermittent fevers throughout my last semester of graduate school.  The week after I finished the program, I finally made time to go to see my primary care doctor, and that was when I was told my bloodwork was consistent with RA and that I should see a rheumatologist.​​

How are you currently treating your condition?
I take Plaquenil, methotrexate, folic acid, and bursts of prednisone when needed. 
What are the biggest challenges you have faced since your diagnosis?
One of the most challenging things for me has been accepting that this is my new reality.  How I’m feeling physically can change so quickly. I am amazed how hard-hitting the fatigue can be sometimes.  It’s caused me to reevaluate how I need to take care of myself.  I used to leave very little time for self-care, and this disease has taught me how important it is to make time for adequate sleep, better nutrition, and physical activity that doesn’t stress out my joints.

What are your favorite tips and tricks for managing everyday tasks?
Setting realistic expectations and goals is number one.  I’m fortunate that my symptoms haven’t been as severe since I started methotrexate last year, but I still have to pace myself and learn to stop and take breaks instead of charging through the day.   Thermacare heat wraps around my lower back are amazing for when I’m having a flare in my hips. 

How do you manage to keep facing forward every day?
I say the serenity prayer a lot.  I have a very supportive husband and two spirited and funny daughters who make life awesome.  I also have “me time” 2 or 3 times per week when I go play table tennis, which I really enjoy and helps keep me fairly active.

If you could go back to diagnosis day and tell your past self one thing, what would it be?
Diagnosis day was only about 2.5 years ago for me, but one thing I’d tell myself is that this disease doesn’t rapidly progress downhill in a steep, straight line…at least, not for don’t lose all hope when you’re having a bad day (or stretch of days).  Keep focused on what you do have control of and go from there.

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