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Rheumatoid Arthritis Type 1 Diabetes

#SAVE32MIL

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The Obamacare Repeal Reconciliation Act is projected to cause 32 million Americans to lose health coverage by 2020. We need an adequate replacement, not a repeal.

This Friday, starting at 12am EST, use #SAVE32MIL on Twitter, to share your story and why healthcare is important to you. This is a non-partisan event- every American's life is important, and each person deserves quality healthcare.

Join us for a special hour Friday evening (8pm EST), where we'll discuss how to contact your legislators and what to say to them. Be prepared to share your successes and tips in advocacy!

All of this leads up to Monday, July 24th, when you'll be fully prepared to contact your legislators and encourage them to replace not repeal.

Click here to join the Facebook event and be sure to invite as many people as possible!

We are powerful as individuals, but our voices together can really make an impact. Join the conversation on Twitter, using #SAVE32MIL, as often as you can on July 21st.

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Rheumatoid Arthritis

Book Review: The Memory of Health

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I have been given this product as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.

“The Memory of Health”, by Edie Summers, is a fascinating read. As someone who has multiple autoimmune diseases and has acquired fibromyalgia as a secondary illness to my Rheumatoid Arthritis, this book really speaks to me. I see it as a piece of work that I will continue to reference for years rather than a book that is read once, not to be picked up again.

Unique Formatting

It isn’t formatted in the typical sense- chapters of simple text, which really works for this book and its content. Edie includes her journal entries which give an interesting glimpse into the author’s life and struggles with chronic illness, from her perspective. I think a lot of patients can identify with keeping a journal but I think we can also learn from Edie, that it’s important to look back at these entries and to consider sharing them. The book also includes the author’s poetry which is a welcome addition to see how ones illness and creativity come together. The journal entries and poetry are accompanied by beautiful images as well. Diet information is dispersed as well- why eating greens, avoiding meat, etc.

The way Edie uses different formats and references different topics thoughout the piece, makes this book feel like it’s giving you more than someone’s story, it’s giving you helpful information that you can use in your own healing health journey.

“Tell your story. Release your soul…”

One of my favorite themes that repeats itself through the book, is how important it is to tell your story. This is so incredibly important to me, as it should be to you. Edie shares that this book gave her a forum to share her stories whereas she had previously felt scared or that she didn’t have anyone she could share with that would understand where she was coming from.

Edie writes that the stories we tell ourselves are often different than the stories our bodies are telling us. She tells us that the story our body is telling us, is the story we need to listen to especially if you are trying to heal. We can’t see where we’ve come from if we haven’t documented every moment of the story.

The Real World is Impacting your Health

This was a really interesting section of the book for me- it covered September 11th, Agent Orange, chemical injuries, Mesothelioma, Veterans, environmental illnesses, and fragrances and how all of these chemicals in our environment are affecting our health.

Popping a pill isn’t always the answer

This section was also a good call to action for patients. A lot of people choose to self medicate before looking at other ways of managing a condition- whether it’s through lifestyle changes or nutrition. It’s important to me to have a holistic approach to my diseases- yes, medicine is absolutely required for me. I’ve also learned that some foods make my symptoms better and some make it much worse. Rest is incredibly important- and yes, it doesn’t come easy but it needs to be a priority. And, as the author points out, it’s important to weigh side effects before staring or continuing a medication. Make sure you do your own research and don’t just blindly take a pill.

If you’d like to check out some additional reviews of “The Memory of Health” please visit Amazon. But, if you’re interested in purchasing a copy for yourself, click here to purchase it at a 40% discount!

 

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Surgery Necessities

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If you’ve been following me on social media, you have seen me talk about my knee surgery a lot. On June 1st, 2017 I had a pretty invasive surgery on my knee that I knew would involve at least 2 months on crutches, a brace for most of the summer, and a hard recovery. I shared in this post, how I was preparing my life for surgery. I’ve learned over the past few weeks that in addition to preparing your job, your home, etc for surgery, there are things that are really helpful to have on hand. Don’t be like me and learn as you go (and place Amazon Prime orders almost every day)! And please, tell me what you would include as I would love to make this as comprehensive of a list as possible.

Amazon Prime

Speaking of Amazon Prime this service has been an absolute lifesaver for me post-op. I did an Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial which was great for me so I could get the things I needed right away, sometimes the same day, if not the next. In addition to getting some of the items you’ll see below, I ordered cat food, litter, shampoo, vitamins… This trial is something I’m probably going to continue or look into having items shipped from Target. I spend a lot of my precious energy going to Target every weekend to stock up on non-perishables. Sometimes that big Target trip is all I can accomplish without having to rest the remainder of the day. When I’m fully recovered, I’m definitely going to look into what I can have shipped to my door for a similar price.

Gloves

Yes, it’s summer here in Baltimore and yes, I’m saying that gloves are a mandatory item to have if you’re going to be on crutches full-time like me. I had ordered these awesome gloves from G-Loves prior to surgery because I was having so much trouble at the gym. My hands were in too much pain to hold on to weight training equipment. These gloves gave me the protection and padding I needed to get my workouts back on track with minimal pain.

I decided to try them with my crutches and they were awesome! I wear them all the time and haven’t had any wrist or hand pain from my crutches which is a big deal since my Rheumatoid Arthritis has been flaring. You’ll also see my Wonder Woman wrist wraps in the photo which would be great if you don’t need full hand support and they’re only $12!

 

Bolster Pillow

For the first week post-op, my sleep and swelling was awful. I had a tower of pillows that I used to elevate my knee and that tower wasn’t the best. I spent the whole night trying so hard not to move, so my tower wouldn’t fall down. I had my family haul pillows up and down the stairs, depending on which room I was sitting in. I went to physical therapy and my therapist had me rest my leg on a bolster while she iced my knee. I fell asleep instantly. She told me to look on online, that the products wouldn’t be a as sturdy (or as expensive), but that I could probably find a good one. I’ve learned from others that some orthopedic surgeons prescribe these prior to surgery and that they couldn’t believe I was trying to recover without one.

Here’s the one that I ordered- Restorology Elevating Leg Rest Pillow Memory Foam Leg Rest Pillow
I’d encourage you to read reviews and make sure the pillow will stay firm and check the measurements to make sure it’s high enough for your ideal elevation.

 

Compression Socks

Prior to surgery, I owned compression socks. Post surgery, I realized that those socks were enough for mild Rheumatoid Arthritis swelling but were no match for post op swelling. I ended up with 3cm of fluid in my ankle and was in a lot of pain as a result. I highly encourage you to have quality compression socks on hand- they really make a difference in recovery.

These socks, PRO Compression: Marathon Compression Socks, are the brand I ended up buying because they come in so many cool colors and patterns! I’m a sucker for fun, colorful socks anyway!

 

Your Pride

All of these items were extremely helpful but there is one thing that you actually don’t need when recovering. But do you know what you don’t need? Your pride. Getting comfortable with asking others to help was hard for me but necessary- I can’t drive myself anywhere, I can’t even cook yet. Admit when you’re hurting, admit when you just can’t do something. I can’t tell you how much better recovery will be if you put yourself first.

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Favorite Things Rheumatoid Arthritis

Review: TechCare TENS Unit, a must have for chronic pain!

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I have been given this product as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.

I have a lot of products that I’ve acquired in my battle against the pain Rheumatoid Arthritis brings. Lotions, patches, creams, pills, compression braces for almost every joint in my body, and a TENS machine. Some work great, others not so much. Some were planned purchases, others acquired out of desperation (when you’re at the grocery store and your body somehow ends up in the pain relief aisle and you are looking up and down because there has to be something new).

When the opportunity to try and review the  TechCare TENS massager came up, I jumped at the chance. I already own a TENS machine- I’ve had it for almost five years. Initially it was great but as my disease progressed and my pain increased, the machine couldn’t keep up. I was maxing out intensity and not getting much relief. My physical therapist tried to order me a new one yet my insurance decided that even though I lived in Maryland and my insurance policy was Maryland based, it would only be covered if I lived in Pennsylvania. Go figure.

I’m now happy that I couldn’t get a machine through my insurance because I probably wouldn’t have tried the TENS from TechCare. The TENS unit that I absolutely adore and use daily. The TENS unit that provides me with immediate, intense relief.

So why do I love this unit? Let me count the ways:

  1. It’s rechargeable. Ahh, no batteries! And the charge lasts for multiple uses and recharges quickly.
  2. Intensity. Whoa. Going from my run of the mill TENS unit (at a comparable price as well) to this has been amazing. I have yet to use the intensity above 60% and that’s with knee pain that requires surgery this week.
  3. Can use 4 electrodes at the same time. This is awesome. I can have one set programmed to work on my extremely painful knee and have the other set massaging my calf muscle which tightens up from pain.
  4. Six massage modes- tapping, acupuncture, deep tissue, foot, cupping, or a combination.
  5. Time- my previous TENS only allowed 20 minute treatments. This allows you to dial up to 60 minutes and keep adding time as you wish.

Here’s what is included in the box:

1 controller: this unit is lightweight, painless to operate (RA has not been kind to my hands)

3 pairs of electrodes: small oval shape, medium oval, and larger rectangle; the multiple sizes are great- small ones work well on my elbow or wrist whereas the large rectangles are perfect for my legs

2 electrode cables: this enables you to use 2 sets (4 pads) at once

1 carrying bag: dark blue, drawstring, and everything, including the charger, fits inside

1 usb charger with wall adapter: easy to charge whether it’s via your computer or a regular outlet

1 electrode pad and wire holder: these are great and my only complaint would be that the kit included a total of 3; I tend to use all 3 sets of pads and have kept the plastic sheets they came with to stick the pads on when not in use

1 user manual: this leaves a bit to be desired- although it explains how to use and care for the product, it doesn’t explain the different modes in detail

1 treatment points chart: I honestly haven’t used this- it looks very similar to the charts you would see in an acupuncturist’s office; I tend to just place the pads where I’m having pain

The bottom line:

This TENS unit from TechCare is awesome, worth its low price, and a definite must have for patients with chronic pain. Interested in purchasing one of these TENS units for yourself? Check them out on Amazon:

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Rheumatoid Arthritis

Addressing Fatigue and RA

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“Snap out of it.”

“You just need a good night’s sleep.”

“Maybe if you got out of bed, you’d feel better.”

If you have fatigue, chances are you’ve heard one of these or something similar. And if you suffer from fatigue, you know that they aren’t true at all.

Chronic fatigue is more than just being tired. It’s more than needing a cup of coffee or a quick power nap. Chronic fatigue can be debilitating and if you have Rheumatoid Arthritis, there’s a good chance that you deal with it on a regular basis. If you are fortunate enough to not suffer from chronic fatigue, a good way to understand how it feels is to think of the last time you had the flu or a serious illness. You probably remember resting, trying to watch a tv show or read a book and falling asleep a few minutes in. You awoke later to feel the same, still exhausted. The rest you had didn’t provide you with any energy at all.

Before I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis a few years ago, I found myself falling asleep while getting my hair done. Sure, getting your hair done can be a bit boring, but definitely not enough to literally put you to sleep. I remember my initial reaction being one of fear. Not fear as to why I was falling asleep but fear that if I jerked awake while getting my hair cut, I could end up with quite a messy situation!

Fast forward a few years- my disease activity has gone up and down and much like the pain in my joints, my fatigue ebbs and flows as well. The difference is, I can medicate my pain- I can put an ice pack on it, take a pill, throw on a compression brace and I will ultimately (hopefully) get some relief. Fatigue on the other hand, isn’t that simple to overcome but here are some strategies that may help you:

Talk to your doctor.

  • This is important. Your doctor needs to know how much fatigue is impacting your life- just like your joint pain or stiffness.
  • Your doctor may also want to rule out any other medical causes for your fatigue so this should be your first to-do.
  • Be sure to explain how your fatigue is different from your feelings of being tired. When I first brought up my fatigue to my rheumatologist, she asked if I was getting enough sleep, if I possibly needed a sleep study. I had to really think about how to explain the difference I was feeling- it wasn’t something that would go away with a nap or 10 hours of sleep. It was a feeling of exhaustion from simply being awake.
  • Be sure to explain how the fatigue makes you feel. For me, it was scary. The fatigue would hit so strongly that I was afraid to drive at times. Make sure your doctor knows this.

Plan your day.

  • Fatigue is disruptive. It’s important to schedule a time to rest during the day. I know that when my daughter and I run errands on Saturday mornings, as much as I want to go to the gym in the afternoon and clean the house, I must lie down after lunch. I have to. Sometimes just knowing that my nap is coming, gives me that extra boost to get through the long Target line.

Communicate.

  • This is hard one, I know. People tend to understand and empathize with pain. If you’re in too much pain to do something, that’s ok, it’s not questioned. But if you say you’re too tired? That’s not always met with the same understanding.
  • Try your best to explain to your family, friends, and coworkers how your fatigue feels, how it impacts you and even how it impacts them. I had to have conversations with my husband like those I had with my doctor. I had to explain how dangerous the fatigue made me feel and how this wasn’t something I could nap away.
  • These conversations will vary with whom you’re speaking with. My kids see being tired as needing sleep and nothing else. Adults in my family have a bit more perspective since they can see my disease as a whole but they still have told me at times to drink a caffeinated drink or go to bed earlier.
  • It’s hard to concentrate or to be in a good mood if you’re struggling to stay awake. Explain that you are a better wife, son, employee, or friend when you get the rest that your body requires. Sometimes when people hear how something impacts them, they are more likely to address the problem.

Most importantly, try your best not to feel guilty (way easier said than done, right?!) and know that you are not alone. You didn’t choose this disease and I guarantee you would give it up in a heartbeat. There are plenty of other patients, just like you, battling with fatigue each day. Make sure you share your story and what has helped you in managing your fatigue. You can also visit Joint Decisions on Facebook to find more information and resources.

 

This post was sponsored by Joint Decisions, an educational initiative developed by Janssen Biotech, Inc. that empowers people living with RA to take a more active role in the management of their disease and have more open and honest conversations with their doctors. I was compensated by Janssen for my time spent collaborating on content for Joint Decisions, however, all thoughts and opinions presented here are my own. All thoughts and opinions presented here are not the thoughts and opinions of Johnson & Johnson and should NOT be taken as medical advice.

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Rheumatoid Arthritis

Release the burden!

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Back in October, I had the pleasure of being with fellow RA patients in Philadelphia for our Joint Decisions Summit. On the last day, we had the chance to participate in the What I Be Project (you can read about my experience here).

After some discussion with the founder, Steve Rosenfield, I decided that I needed to be free of feeling like a burden. A financial, emotional, physical burden.

For the few months following the summit, I had a better perspective. Sure I would say that I was sorry to my husband too many times and yes, unnecessary tears were shed but I really tried value myself. Until this morning.

If you follow me on Instagram or twitter, you may know that I am almost always in some state of nausea. My pain patch makes me nauseous and when I take my morning or evening meds, my nausea spikes significantly (post methotrexate injection nausea is in a category of its own). I drink ginger ale every morning on my commute- I have my nausea attack down to a science. I have Zofran but I try to save it for when I’m traveling or really need to function after methotrexate.

Continue reading

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Favorite Things

The Whole Health Life Review

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I have been given this product as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.

The Whole Health Life is, to put it simply, a book that discusses how our mind and body are so tightly connected and how that connection impacts our lives, especially the lives of those with a chronic illness.

Before I tell you what the book is about, let me tell you what it isn’t. The Whole Health Life is not:

  • a quick fix or a cure for your disease or a guarantee that you won’t get a disease in your lifetime
  • an alternative to every medication your doctor has prescribed for you
  • full of expensive supplements and treatments

What it is, is a comprehensive guide of simple, evidence-based solutions to improve your health from all angles. Continue reading

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PillDrill is a must for patients!

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“I have been given this product as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.” 

 

When I was offered the chance to have a PillDrill system sent to me to review, I had high hopes. Like many of you with a chronic illness or two, I take a lot of medications. Some are morning only, some have to be taken at night, and others are taken weekly or throughout the day as needed. I found myself jotting pain medications or antibiotics on post-it notes around the house. I tried to remember the last time I took a pain med by seeing if I happened to tweet about my pain earlier. There were days I’d start feeling strange at work and didn’t realize until I got home that night, that I hadn’t taken my morning medications.

In short, my system wasn’t working. All of that time and energy I spent trying to remember my prescriptions and jot down how I was feeling that day (to share at future doctor’s appointments) could have been spent on much better things.

Enter the PillDrill.

Continue reading

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Hope Rheumatoid Arthritis

Don’t make decisions for tomorrow based on today. 

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Today was one of the worst days I’ve had in my five year battle with Rheumatoid Arthritis. I woke up hurting but taped myself together and took three tabs of ibuprofen as I dropped my son off at school.

As soon as I got on the road to start my 50 minute commute, my elbows (freshly taped this morning) were so painful and felt so weak that I had to switch back and forth between each arm to hold the steering wheel. My hands started swelling and my knuckles wouldn’t crack, no matter how hard I tried. I grabbed my heavy compression gloves and put them on at a red light.

My knee decided to join the party a few minutes later. Since I was driving, there wasn’t much I could do except massage it (and punch it) with the tennis balls I keep in my center console.

By the time I arrived to work, my eyes were red from crying and I was exhausted.  Continue reading

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Rheumatoid Arthritis

The Gupta Programme

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I have been given this product as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in now way influenced by the company.

The Gupta Programme is a three month program that includes a variety of materials. The program is designed for patients with ME/CFS, Fibromyalgia, and/or MCS. I can attest to how it helps with Fibromyalgia and with the pain and stress my other chronic illnesses cause me.

Overall, I found the program to be all encompassing- it allows learners of all types to get the most out of this program. The program includes the following: Continue reading

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