Autoimmune Disease: Living with RA

"Your immune system is basically mistaking your joints as foreign and treating them as such. In a nutshell, your body is attacking itself."

Autoimmune Disease: Living with RA

That's what my doctor told me when I asked him what an autoimmune disease was. I had been in the hospital for a week and was finally getting discharged. The verdict? Rheumatoid Arthritis (along with iron deficiency anemia). It was severe and it had already done irreversible damage. I was 23.


What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Most people hear arthritis and think bones. And they're right, but there are many types of arthritis. With rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system mistakes the joints as a threat and attacks them. They become inflamed and swollen. RA can also effect other parts of your body like your lungs and even your heart. If left untreated, the damage can be permanent. There are different types of medicines that help lessen the pain and slow the progression. Unfortunately there is no cure.


My Life with RA

I got diagnosed with RA in 2011. I went to the hospital because I was having chest pain and once they took my blood the doctor came back and told me that they were keeping me. I ended up there for a week while they ran all kinds of tests. Turns out the chest pain was because the walls around my heart were inflamed. My blood had came back with enzymes in it that let the doctors know that something was wrong. The culprit? RA. When I first found our that I had RA, I didn't get it. This is an illness that people over 40 usually get. I was only 23. But I had it. And it was bad. It had already started to cause damage to my joints. As you can see in the picture, my right hand is messed up.

This year year will be 4 years that I've been living with it. To say that it's a challenge would be an understatement. I'm in pain pretty much every day. It's either manageable, where I can still function normally. Or unmanageable, where I everything is stiff and achy. I have trouble with buttons and snaps on my clothes. Even simple things like opening a bag of chips is a struggle. I was always able to use both hands, but I was dominantly right handed. Now I mostly use my left. I have to take a combination of medicines. That includes going for infusion treatment every 8 weeks which is basically me sitting in a room hooked up to a machine for 2 hrs while the meds are administered through an IV. Fun right?

Mentally, I've gotten better. I was really angry when I first learned of my condition. Mostly because there is no explanation for why I have this other than my body not being able to tell the difference between good and bad. And I'm so much younger than the normal age that people usually get diagnosed. When I go for treatment, I'm always the youngest patient there. Everyone there is 2 and 3 times older than me. But I realized that being angry does nothing. I'm still gonna have RA regardless. So why not come at it with a positive attitude? So that's what I'm doing.

We're all fighting a battle. Everybody has been dealt a hand. I personally plan to play like I'm holding a royal flush. How are you playing your hand? However it is, stay strong.

(March is Autoimmune Disease Awareness Month so that's why I decided to share.)


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What Guys Said 5

  • You seem like a strong woman that's for sure. I have an autoimmune digestive disease called Crohn's but I have a very mild case. When I have a flare up of the disease I have to run to the bathroom like 8-12 times per day. It can be very disruptive in my everyday life. Luckily the doctors recently discovered what it was so they can give me anti-inflammatory drugs when I have a flare up. I pretty much always have some abdominal pain and at night cramps can get kind of bad but it doesn't seem like it's anything compared to what you're going through. It sucks that there's no cures for autoimmune diseases haha

    I'm a stronger person for having read this. Thank you.

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    • First of all, thank you for taking the time to read this. I appreciate your kind words. It does suck that there are no cures. What you're dealing with seems rough as well. Flare ups are the worse because they are random and hella disruptive. Just have to stay positive though. I'm glad that you got something out of this though. Thanks again for reading. And sharing your story as well.

    • You're very welcome. It's nice hearing other people's perspectives although at the same time I wish they didn't have to go through these types of things too.

    • I feel the same exact way. It's nice to meet someone that can understand what I'm going through but I wouldn't wish it on anyway. It's tough.

  • I had no idea that rheumatoid arthritis was an autoimmune disorder

    Great take

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  • sorry to hear that you go through that on a daily basis. Hopefully when people read this, they will start counting their blessings. Lots of complaining about one thing or the other on here, and not enough gratitude for what we already have. Hopefully some new medicine comes out in the next few years that will help you cope with this. You're fortunate to be living in one of the most extraordinary times when it comes to scientific development. I mean, the European Space Agency just landed a probe on a moving comet, so reducing these symptoms of autoimmune disease should be no problem in the coming years. You have a good attitude towards it though. Quite inspirational

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    • Thank you for your kind words. I too hope that people will read this and count their blessings. And also gain some insight. And I have to stay positive. It's very easy to fall into a mood and get stuck there dealing with it. And yes, we live in a time where new cures are found all the time so fingers crossed!

      Thanks again for taking the time to read this!

  • How do you manage your pain?
    And if other people are responsible for your pain and disability how to deal with that?

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    • Outside of the meds, there's not much else I can do but try to stay active. Some days that's physically impossible so I just try to stretch and then I lay in bed.

      What do you mean if other people are responsible for it?

    • people can't hurt other people?

    • Sure they can. I'm just not sure what you're asking?

  • Thank you for sharing this information cause I was diagnosed
    about year ago with Arthritis the doctor found it in my knees
    but i am having problems now with abnormal CBC levels so
    i am thinking that could somethig related to that so in week
    i got go and get my blood test done over again to check things out
    sorry about your misfortune :/

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What Girls Said 5

  • Very informative and educational Take, thank you for sharing. I'm really sorry to hear that you have to deal with this :( I also have an autoimmune disease (I wrote a myTake about it too). It really is a daily struggle and with autoimmune diseases, there is nothing you can even do about it since it's just a problem with your body and there's typically no cure. I mean, you can make lifestyle changes to help the problem and manage it, but it still presents challenges.

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned keeping a positive attitude. I know when I was first diagnosed with my disease, I just cried because I was angry and I didn't want to make all the changes to my lifestyle that were necessary for me to stay healthy. However, over time my attitude about it has gotten a lot better and it's much easier to deal with since I am more positive about it.

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    • Thank you Honey. And I remember talking to you about yours. It has to do with wheat right?

      But yes, the biggest thing is staying positive. It's a daily struggle. And it's hard for people to understand because they can't look at you and tell that you're dealing with it. I don't know how many times I've gotten "well you look fine to me" before. It makes me so mad lol.

      If it doesn't do anything else, having an AI disease sure does make you appreciate the little things.

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    • Yeah, I think a lot of people don't understand because they've never had to deal with anything like that so, I suppose it's understandable, but still annoying. Lol

    • Lol I agree.

  • I have RA too and I can completely relate. Whenever I get angry that I got it at such a young age, I think about the toddlers and babies with this disease and how unfair life can be that I should just thank that at least I didn't get it until now

    It's an invisible struggle that nobody really understands except those who have it

    Join us I'm in a Facebook group called FIGHTING WITH RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS. It has helped me when you're feel down

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  • Awesome take :)

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  • Good Take, I had no idea that rheumatoid arthritis was an autoimmune disorder. I learned something :)

    I know chronic pain can really wear you down, you must be strong. :)

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    • Thank you. It definitely does take its toll on you. I try to remain as positive as I can and as strong as I can. Thanks again for taking the time to read this!

  • I don't have arthritis, but I've been living with chronic neck, shoulder, hand and back pain for 8 years. My chronic pain is due to my desk job and being at the computer all day - repetitive strain disorder. It's frustrating to deal with and I'm at high risk for developing arthritis in the future. I'm working hard right now to get out of my field but it's difficult. I can't say I understand what you are going through, because all I have to do is quit my job and throw away this stupid computer and I'll never feel any pain again. But if I did that I would be poor and I'd have no money because there isn't much else I can do with a Computer Science degree but sit in front of a computer all day.

    I do yoga, I work out. Meditation. These things all help me but I'm not sure if they would help you. I also cut out all nightshades which increase inflammation such as peppers (all kinds including bell peppers, jalapenos, chili peppers, cayenne pepper, paprika, black/white peppers, ALL PEPPERS lol), tomatos, eggplant. I also cut out all starchy foods such as white potatoes and most bread. It helped a lot when I cut this out a year ago and nearly 80% of my inflammation went away, then I started eating them again and now the inflammation is back combined with working so much it's gotten worse. Now I need to cut it all out again.

    It's tought, and I wish you all the best. Hopefully some kind of natural treatment will come out that can help you.

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    • Thank you for taking time to read this.

      I do Zumba and try to remain as active as possible. It's a challenge definitely. I've never been a fan of peepers. I changed my diet around so I mostly eat fruits and green smoothies. I also have iron deficiency so that doubles my fatigue issues so I have to consume red meat to try to boost that. But I'm making it. Gotta keep positive. Thank you for your kind words. And I hope that your pain gets better and not worse.

    • Thank you! Has anyone ever told you about cutting out nightshades? I don't think there is anything that would really cure you, but I'm sure there are things you can do to at least reduce the inflammation. You have to find out your blood type, then find out about which foods work against your blood type. it's hard to do on your own, but if you can get to a naturopath he/she can help you out quicker. Otherwise do lots of research about nightshades and foods that cause inflammation for your specific blood type.

    • No one has spoken to me about that but it's definitely something that I will look into. It can't hurt to try right? Thank you for your suggestions.

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