As most of you know, I am currently participating in a 30 day yoga challenge. It’s hosted by Power of Movement, the word’s largest yoga fundraiser. It will wrap up on February 27 when me and 499 other yogis take to our mats in a “mega session” in Toronto.
I wrote all about the event and why I chose to take part in this post. Money raised will go towards the Arthritis & Autoimmunity Research Centre Foundation. While I am not personally afflicted with arthritis, I know those who are. It’s not just something your grandparents or dog suffer from. One in 1000 kids will get arthritis and there are over 100 different types.
When I heard Andrea had an autoimmune form of arthritis, I asked her to share her story. As a fit 28-year-old, her story shows just how the condition can effect anyone, and how it can change your life.
In 2008, I started experiencing pain in my hands. It wasn’t from overuse – sometimes I’d just be reading a book and all of a sudden both of my wrists would hurt. Then I noticed that my feet were hurting. After a few months of this, I headed off to my doctor. A diagnosis of arthritis was not what I was expecting.
Rheumatoid Arthritis – I had no idea what it is. Like most people, you hear arthritis and relate this to osteoarthritis (OA) which is the breakdown of the joints due to wear and tear.
So what is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
“Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory arthritis and an autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease is one where the body’s immune system becomes confused and begins to ‘attack’ the body. In RA, the joints are the target of the immune attack causing swelling, pain and inflammation in the joints”
Most cases of RA occur in women and usually effects people between the ages of 20 and 60. I was 28 when I was first diagnosed.
Some of the symptoms of RA include:
- Joint pain in more than one area – for me, it started with my hands and feet, than moved into my knees and neck.
- Fatigue – We have a couch in our break room at work. That couch and I are good friends. I’d have a nap every day on my lunch hour.
- Morning stiffness that may last for hours – getting out of bed is a nightmare. You can’t flip over because your knees, hands and neck are stiff. Once you get out, you can barely walk since your feet and knees are stiff. Forget about opening your shampoo body in the shower. I’d hobble off to work and would be hopefully loosened up by the time I got there, 3 hours after getting up.
Up until my arthritis symptoms started, I was very active. I’ve struggled with my weight my entire life and exercise helped keep me at a healthy weight. However with pain in my hands, feet and knees, I had to stop everything. I gave up my cardio classes because bouncing around hurt my feet. I stopped running because it was too hard on my knees. I stopped practicing yoga because you can’t hold a downward facing dog when your hands hurt too much to support yourself.
Thankfully, RA can be controlled with medication. Its different for everyone, but I take 6 big pills a day and a weekly injection to reduce inflammation and slow any damage to joints. My Rheumatologist got me started very early with my medication and thankfully, I don’t have any permanent joint damage. For many people, RA results in irreversible damage to their joints and potentially long term disability.
Two and a half years from my initial diagnosis, I’m pain free about 99% percent of the time. I have the occasional “flare up” where every joint hurts and I’m exhausted and all I can do is stay home in bed. I’m often sick to my stomach from my medications. I see my rheumatologist every 3 months, get monthly blood tests to ensure that my medication isn’t causing any problems with my liver and kidneys, have x rays taken once a year to monitor any joint damage. But I can run, kick box and be active again. I’m much better off than a lot of people with RA and for that, I’m grateful.
There’s currently no cure for RA. My plan is to keep taking my medication, supporting organizations that fund research for all forms of arthritis and to keep active for as long as I can. Every time I run, finish a Turbo Fire video or hold a downward dog without pain is a small victory for me over my arthritis.
Thank you for taking the time to share your story Andrea!! Is that not the nicest race photo you’ve ever seen?
If you’d like to pitch in for the cause, click here to go to my fundraising page. Even $5 will help!
I love yoga. I love what it does for my mind and body. And I would love it if everyone and anyone could do it.
P.S. That’s the bar I celebrated my birthday in ;)