February 2 is Ground Hog Day and, this year, the first Awareness Day for Rheumatoid Disease. I love the comparison of the Ground Hog seeing his shadow to first diagnosis of the disease and trying to predict how the course of the disease will run for each individual. I am so happy to see this debilitating disease finally getting increased national awareness.
People often think of Rheumatoid Disease as ‘just arthritis’. Rheumatoid Disease is an autoimmune disorder that attacks joint and organ tissue. It manifests itself differently in each patient, young and old.
The Summer of 2008 I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. My early symptoms included annoying nodules on my elbows and crippling hand pain. The nodules had been a problem for years and my Dermatologist treated them with cortisone injections (interestingly if she injected in one arm, they just jumped over to the other arm).
It wasn’t until I made an appointment with my Physician Assistant and related the hand pain and nodules, that the diagnosis process began. She took a biopsy of one nodule and ran a panel of blood tests. All results pointed to Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and I was quickly referred to a Rheumatologist.
The first two years of treatment involved injections (Enbrel) and Celebrex and when a flare-up occurred, steroids came into play. During this time, I also started seeing an Accupuncturist who treated my immune system and I began practicing yoga. Additional doses of Fish Oil, B12 and Vitamin D were added to my daily regimen. I also began to realize the correlation between gluten and inflammation.
Flare-ups typically occurred during periods of high stress. Solution…less stress. In late 2010 I had the opportunity to retire early from my corporate management position. Amazingly, once I knew I was leaving, the stress began to dissipate. I discontinued taking Enbrel and Celebrex and my RA has been in remission for two years.
I’m lucky and grateful that, for today, I have my health. Rheumatoid Arthritis is considered a genetic disease yet the only possible connection in our family is to a third cousin. However, shortly after I was diagnosed, my niece, seven years my junior, was also diagnosed with Rheumatoid Disease.
Raise your awareness and voice on February 2 for Rheumatoid Disease. I know I will.