When Life With RA Isn’t a Bowl of Cherries: 3 Considerations
I’ve been thinking about those times when life with RA (rheumatoid arthritis) isn’t a bowl of cherries. A chronic disease like RA has its own set of particular issues making day-to-day life challenging, you know, not a bowl of cherries. The issues range from finding the medication(s) that best manage the disease, then figuring out a way to pay for the treatment, to finding the energy to do basic daily tasks just to keep your head above water. What has prompted me to reflect on these times comes from a place of compassion.
It is painful to see others with RA not yet managing their disease effectively or experiencing a flare. I have vivid memories of what life is like looking for the pharmaceutical concoction and lifestyle habits to combat the fatigue, pain, joint stiffness and all around lousy feelings.
I want to share three considerations I personally applied during these times I believe helped me along to a better place.
My journey to disease remission wasn’t instant pudding. It took years. I did the two-step-forward-one-to-two-steps-backward dance for a long time.
We all know there is no cure YET for RA. I wanted to move toward healing my body from the get-go, therefore I did a lot of reading and applied what was reasonable and made sense for me. My definition of healing is good disease management and preventing further problems as much as possible.
Here are my THREE considerations when life with RA isn’t a bowl of cherries:
- Reasonable goals.
- Positive thoughts.
- FRESH Strategy
Let’s look at each of the considerations!
Dr. Sandra Pagnussat, a Las Vegas rheumatologist, and RA patient herself state it best in the latest The Rheumatologist publication. Dr. Pagnussat speaks of identifying measurable targets to determine if the disease is well controlled. She says, “Often, this means letting patients know that being pain-free may not be the goal, but rather pain tolerable.”
Personally, I’m not pain-free, but I can tolerate what pains I do experience. I figure everyone has aches and pains!
We have all heard ” the power of positive thinking” verbiage bantered around. I believe the mind is very useful for facilitating healing and better disease outcomes. Positive thoughts are less stressful to the body than negative ones and that is good for the immune system. We can choose what we think, therefore walking on the sunny side is a great habit to have!
Now, in the middle of an excruciating arthritic flare, positive thinking may not come naturally, it didn’t for me. Therefore, I have two very special, positive memories handy to remember when the pain takes over. One is a family holiday dinner and the other a family vacation. I’m able to dwell on these memories to divert my attention from the flare. I remember the menu, the conversation, and my beautiful mother sitting across from me. I use mind games often to manage this disease!
I’m a fan of Dr. Amit Sood, Professor of Medicine at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine. Dr. Sood is another professional drawing from his own experience to help others. His position as the Chair of Mayo Mind Body Initiative in itself speaks to the integration of mind and body! His quotes such as:
“We get so caught up weeding the yard that we completely miss the tulips that nature gives us for a few precious weeks. We postpone joy.” Amit Sood, MD
have helped me move to a better place mentally and emotionally. I have benefitted from reading his explanations of these quotes. It is all about using our mind to move in a positive direction.
I have also read biographies of historical people overcoming great roadblocks and personal struggles that have helped encourage me to keep fighting! Some of our arthritic friends read different Psalms to bring them mindfully to a better place.
These are a few suggestions. I’d love to hear from you and add to this list!
I developed an acronym, FRESH, to quickly refer to when my joints start hurting or I feel fatigued. This came about from lifestyle changes I made to augment my biologic treatment for my RA. F is for food. I stay away from processed food and eat an anti-inflammatory diet. R is for relaxation. I have made choices to reduce my stress. E is for exercise. I have a pilates session weekly and walk the dog almost daily. S is for sleep. I practice good sleep hygiene. H is for hydration. I aim to drink half my body weight in ounces of water a day.
I would love to hear from you about this important subject. These are my 3 considerations using Arthritis Wisdom!