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!
Diagnoses: type 1 diabetes, RA, AS
How are you currently treating your condition?
I use an insulin pump, Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM), Rituxan for RA, medications to prevent diabetes complications, and Several NASIDs for AS.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced since your diagnosis?
I have had type 1 diabetes since 1974, and the biggest challenge has been mental, not physical. The 24/7/365 nature of diabetes leads to mental health challenges. For me, the main issue has been depression.
With RA and AS the main issue has been the loss of the ability to work. I loved my job, and when health prevented me from continuing, I was devastated. For me, I had so much of my identity wrapped up in what I did, that I lacked direction and grounding when I stopped work.
What are your favorite tips and tricks for managing everyday tasks?
I have to recall how fortunate I am every day. When I was diagnosed with diabetes, I had no expectation that I would live beyond 30-35 years. For that reason when I was told I had I have RA, I understood how fortunate I was to be alive and still working at age 43.
Certainly, my mother who passed at age 46 from complications of type 1 diabetes after 23 years did not have the chance to be diagnosed with RA. I ask myself when I am suffering from RA or AS, what would my mom have given to have the opportunity to live as long as I have? I imagine she would have given a lot.
How do you manage to keep facing forward every day?
My wife of 40 years keeps me going forward. But our sons and grandchildren are my joy. Nothing beats grandchildren to keep a person facing forward. When you are around kids who are active and laugh, you cannot help but face forward.
If you could go back to diagnosis day and tell your past self one thing, what would it be?
If I were to go back to me at age 17 when I was diagnosed with diabetes, I would tell myself to get therapy sooner. I spent a long time and wasted many years being afraid of and depressed about the complications of diabetes. During treatment, in my 40s my life improved so much. I wish I had not wasted the time between my 20s and 40s.
With RA, I would tell myself not to be afraid of powerful biologic medications. It took me three years to inquire about the pain and stiffness I was experiencing. With my first biologic medication, my physical health improved amazingly. When people ask me what they should do, I always say get to your biologic as soon as possible.
Do you have a blog you would like to share?
I blog at RADiabetes and CreakyJoints. I also write occasionally at HealthCentral and for TUDiabetes. I also host the annual RABlog week starting the last Monday of September on RADiabetes.
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