Can't you just picture all of the grannies slowly walking down the street kvetching about their aching knees?! That used to be my image of arthritis. Until I was diagnosed with RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis). At age 24.
Yep, I'm a statistic... and not one that I'd choose to be. I've had the last five years to cope with it and now rarely talk about it because there are far more interesting (and fun!) things about me that I'd like folks to focus on. BUT- Once someone finds out you have a chronic disease, your friends and family are concerned about it (having a great support system is fabulous!) and tend to focus on talking about it every time you see them. I certainly don't mind chatting about it... heck, I'm blogging about it... but I'm more than the RA and on days when I feel great, it's the last thing that I want to be reminded about. I understand that it's a fine line and I'm glad that my friends and family err on the side of asking about it because I know they care. My MO is usually, "I'll tell you if I'm hurting."
Here's the deal... Rheumatoid Arthritis, or RA, is an inflammatory arthritis and an auto immune disease that can't be cured. Basically, my immune system is a little too jumpy and instead of just protecting my body by attacking foreign cells (think viruses and bacteria), it goes batshit crazy and attacks it's own tissues! The tissue that it usually attacks happens to be a thin membrane that lines the joints (called the synovium) and results in build up of fluid in my joints that causes some nasty pain. Although it can't be cured, it's not something that will kill me... just something that I'm stuck living with and have to manage (like taxes).
RA is unlike Osteoarthritis as "osteo" is the breakdown of cartilage that results in bones rubbing against each other... when you see ads the advertise glucosamine for arthritis, this is the type that helps (sadly, it does squat for RA). I'm sure it's equally as painful and I'm happy that I don't have the double whammy.
Here's the skinny on my RA... it sucks. Each person is different, but medicines, like Enbrel (a weekly injection) and ibuprofen, work wonders for me and usually need just that to feel good. When I'm flaring I have to be reunited with my arch enemy named prednisone that makes my joints feel great, but makes me puff up, gain weight and totally messes with me (think depression and a little crazy... sadly, my hubby can vouch for this one).
I got super lucky when I was pregnant with Doodle because it went into remission and I felt fabulous... if it wasn't for this major flare that I've been in for 2+ months and the pain I'm in trying to keep up with a 2 year old, I'd be crawling all over the Mister trying to get pregnant again. Hold up-- Let's take a second to clarify this one... I'm not pregnant and it's not happening for a while. Let's focus on the RA here...
There is a treatment in Phase 3 Clinical Trials that I'll be lining up to get once it's approved and on the market... a 2x day pill that's rumored to work as well as injectibles! Even if my job didn't revolve around protecting innovation, the impact it makes on my life as a patient is enough for me to shout it from the rooftops... Isn't medical innovation amazing?!
Anyway, back to the point... today is World Arthritis Day and I felt slightly obligated to speak up and give you the Cliff's Notes version of my story. Arthritis.org is a great resource if you want to learn more and if you're one of my sisters, check out the AOII Foundation which supports arthritis research (see, that darn jingle bell walk does actually - although very indirectly - help one of "us."). No donations or further actions required... reading this is enough for me...