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It’s National Rheumatoid Arthritis Week

Something most of you may not know about me is that I live with Rheumatoid Arthritis. It is not something I talk about a lot because honestly, I don’t give it a lot of attention in day to day life. It is apart of who I am, not who I am. I am sharing this with you because there may be someone out there going through something similar and I want you to know that you are not alone and you can still lead a normal life.

Here is my story:

I had my first flair in November of 2013 at the age of 26. A few months before I had run the Lexington Half Marathon and everything was great. This flair escalated quickly. It started in my hips and knees, soon it made its ways to my ankles which started swelling to the point it was painful to wear flats. I made an appointment with my family physician who immediately did blood work and referred me to Vanderbilt. My blood work came back negative for Lupus but positive for RA.

I had to wait 3 months to see the rheumatologist at Vandy. That was the longest three months of my life. I got to the point that Nick would have to help me get dressed and by the evening he would have to assist me in getting around the house. I would sit in the parking lot at work and cry because the pain was so terrible and I had put on a brave face all day at work.

I could very easily see why people give up or become depressed when something like this happens. I felt so helpless and frustrated. I was 26 years old had been married just over a year and he had to wait on me hand and foot for months. I had lost my quality of life very quickly

In February 2014, I met with my doctor at Vandy. He was absolutely amazing. He spent 2 hours with me and never looked at his watch. He answered all my questions and explained each medication he was going to put me on an why. I left that day with hope for the first time in a few months.

“ My RA is apart of who I am, not who I am.”

Now let’s fast forward to today. How am I managing an autoimmune? Thankfully, I have not had a flair since that first one. And after charting everything (from the weather, sleep, what I ate, stress level, etc) in my day for 3 months, I learned what my triggers are and now try to avoid those things. I have to listen to my body and take it seriously. There are days I have stiffness and it may take me a couple of hours to have some grip strength in my hands, but I am thankful at how quickly it has gone into remission and stayed away while having kids. But the biggest thing I learned, is to ask for help. It doesn’t mean I am weak or lazy. It just means sometimes I need help. I focus on what is great in my life and keep moving forward

If you are battling with an autoimmune please know you can still have a life. It is all about what you want to make of it. You may have to do things differently but that is ok. Keep moving forward, ask for help and do your research.

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