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Rheumatoid Arthritis

What you don’t see

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When you see me at work in the morning, you don’t know what it took just to get me in the door. I drive with the heated seats on, air conditioning blowing, tennis ball lodged between my hip and the center console, an ice pack around my knee, and pain meds on board. Even with all of that, I am still typically gripping the steering wheel in pain, just trying to get to work so I can get out of the car and move my joints.

 

When you see me at the gym, wearing my headphones, working out next to you, you don’t see what it took to get me there. You don’t know that every afternoon, my pain increases substantially, a fever sets in..I feel like I have the flu. Every. Day. I have to convince myself to go to the gym because I know the movement is good for me. There are days I cry on the commute to the gym but power through because I won’t let this disease dictate every single thing I do.

 

When you see me park in the handicapped spot at Target and get out of the car, smiling at my daughter, you don’t see the struggle behind my happy face. You don’t know that one good trip to Target will knock me out for the day. You don’t know that my daughter says she enjoys going with me because I’m funny and we have a good time, but that I know she knows that I need help.

 

If there is one blessing I’ve gotten from my Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosis, it is that I’m aware of what I might not be seeing. I encourage you to not judge those with a chronic illness, to not question the amount of pain they are in, or how awful their suffering really is. And to go a step further, when you see someone slowly walking across the road, instead of feeling frustrated that they are slowing you down, take a minute to realize that she may be going as fast as she can.

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Favorite Things Rheumatoid Arthritis

Fay Farms Rejuvenation 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. “

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If you’ve read my blog or followed me on Twitter for awhile, you’ll know that I’ll try anything to get rid of my pain. Even when my pain is relatively under control, I still find myself wandering the first aid/pain relief aisle at the grocery store. I’ve tried every spray, balm, patch that’s OTC and plenty of prescription products as well. So, I was skeptical when I received The Fay Farm‘s Rejuvenation lotion to try and alleviate my pain.

In short, I absolutely love this product. Let me tell you why. I received this lotion shortly before my knee surgery. I was in tremendous pain prior to my surgery from both my knee and almost every other joint due to a lack of my RA medications as I was trying to keep my immune system somewhat strong for the surgery. I was taking pain medications around the clock and still wasn’t getting relief. I initially tried a little of this lotion on my hands and noticed they felt better but was still skeptical because, as I mentioned, I was taking pain meds nonstop.

After the surgery, I started having sciatic nerve pain, which was brand new to me. My hip pain came back with a vengeance, I’m sure walking with crutches didn’t help keep it away. And this lotion helped! And by helped, I mean it took my pain away! I could rub it on my hip and literally within a few minutes (sometimes needing a repeat application for stronger relief) my pain was gone.

Now that my incisions have healed, I’ve used this lotion and again, it substantially reduces my pain on my post-operative knee. This lotion is the difference between me taking a prescription pain medication and not. It even relieves menstrual cramps (TMI I know…).

So what exactly is this magical lotion? The Fay Farm’s Rejuvenation Lotion is a blend of herbs and essential oils designed to relieve joint and muscle pain. Notes of vanilla from peru balsam essential oil complimented with a delicious top note of camphor makes for a mild, almost decadent aroma.  Made with organic ingredients: Purified water, hemp oil, grape seed oil, apricot kernel oil, emulsifying wax, stearic acid, argan oil, magnesium, white sesame oil, jojoba oil, essential oils, 200 mg. CBD oil, fennel, licorice, turmeric, valerian, gluconolactone and sodium benzoate (certified organic preservative).

The lotion has a thick consistency- thick enough to really be able to rub into problem areas but not too thick that you struggle to get it out of the bottle/pump. And you truly don’t need a ton to get relief. One pump usually is enough for each area (big areas, like a hip, might need two). I’ve been using this lotion almost daily for weeks and still have half a bottle remaining.

And guess what? The Fay Farm is offering my readers a 10% discount and free shipping (within the US) if you use the code “ATJAX” at checkout. What are you waiting for?! Click here to order your own and please let me know how it works for you.

 

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Hope Rheumatoid Arthritis

Hopeful not hopeless

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I’m in the midst of a massive flare. A flare that just keeps coming, no breaks, and to me, no end in sight.

With a root canal scheduled for this past Thursday, I decided to skip my methotrexate the weekend before (I have now been off of it since the beginning of June). Dental work is tricky and with all of the bacteria involved, I didn’t think the risk was worth it.

That root canal involved three hours in the dentist chair and I left with only 90% complete. I have a very considerate dentist who propped my mouth open for me but just having it open that long threw my jaw into a flare. It hurts tremendously and I’ve limited myself to soft foods for the past 4 days.

So this weekend, I had to skip methotrexate, again, since I won’t be back to the dentist until a week from now (which means, you guessed it, no methotrexate next weekend either).

My knee had progressed so well in PT that I really saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I had a new med plan- I have my first Simponi Aria infusion later this week and felt that I was days away from starting back at the gym.

That light is so dim now, I can barely see it. But I’m going to focus on it, make that light at the end of the tunnel a bit brighter.


A little over four years ago, I couldn’t walk. I can walk today with a slight, yet endearing limp (or swagger you may say). Four years ago, I couldn’t reach my face with my left arm because my elbow was locked. Today, I was able to knit. Four years ago I was hopeless. Although it may seem like it today, I’m not hopeless, I’m hopeful. I’m hopeful that my new meds will work (in time, of course). I’m hopeful that I’m going to return to the gym, stronger than ever. And I’m hopeful because I have such a strong community of supporters near and far. And I won’t let them down.

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Rheumatoid Arthritis

Invisible

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I’ve had Rheumatoid Arthritis for a little over 4 years. In those 4 years, I’ve had plenty of good days and bad days. I’ve had my share of days where I cried on the way to work, in the bathroom at work, and on my way home because I felt so awful. I’ve had days where I’m exhausted from acting like everything is fine. Because explaining how bad I feel sounds even more exhausting.

Unless you’re my husband, you probably never noticed. But when I recently had knee surgery, I got noticed (yes, I’m a very awkward crutch user). I was (and still am) constantly offered assistance. Everyone has been overwhelmingly supportive- from making sure I don’t walk too much, to offering to fill up my water bottle. I feel incredibly blessed to have such supportive coworkers, friends, and family surrounding me.

But (you could feel a “but” coming, couldn’t you?)- as my knee gets stronger and I spend less time relying on my cane, my Rheumatoid Arthritis disease is still rearing its ugly head. But you can’t see it. It’s still giving me a daily fever, making opening a water bottle excruciating at times, making my body feel like it constantly has the flu. The tears are still falling. But you don’t see them.

Having an invisible disability that for a few months was made somewhat visible is rough now. To know how much support was around me, without having to ask for it, was awesome. It was absolutely incredible. As a fiercely independent person, I hate to admit that I’m going to miss the support. It seems like people think that because I’m stronger, because I’m more mobile, that I’m better. The truth is, my knee is better. My disease is not.

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Favorite Things Rheumatoid Arthritis

Mo’s Dream Cream Review

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Disclaimer: 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.

As you’ve read in countless posts by me, I take a lot of pills. And although some of my pain can only be relieved with a pill, there are times when I will try everything I can to avoid taking one. I have lidocaine patches (great relief, if you can get them to stick to you…forget about large joints that you might want to move and keep a patch on at the same time), prescription NSAID gels (work pretty well but the smell leaves a lot to be desired and the copay can be expensive), and every over the counter cream you can think of (yes I own BENGAY).


Enter a new product into my pain relief arsenal: Mo’s Dream Cream. What makes this product different? It’s all natural. As in legit all natural- you can read and pronounce every ingredient: Capsaicin paste, essential oils, cocoa butter, glycerin. Sure it’s nice to be able to pronounce the ingredients but you know what’s even better about them being all natural? They are safe. Safe to use and to have around pets, children, etc. One of my favorite things that the creator, Keri, told me was that she used the lotion on her Chocolate Lab for his hip dysplasia and he was able to run again! And I absolutely love that the product is named after him and his adorable photo is on the bottle.

What else makes this product different? The product creator and owner, Keri Anderson. First of all, Keri understands chronic pain. She herself has spent years suffering from pain and has taken a variety of pain medications as well. She understands that although a pill may relieve your pain, the side effects can be gruesome (she notes being so confused that it was hard to remember her kids names at times). She also understands that most over the counter creams/lotions typically don’t offer lasting relief.

Keri spent years studying Apothecary and Chinese Herbology in an effort to create a product that would eliminate her pain for a long period of time- long enough to get a decent night’s sleep! She learned how to make her own homemade capsaicin paste that would be powerful enough to eliminate pain but not so powerful that it burned the skin.

So why should you give Mo’s Dream Cream a try? First of all, it works. I was able to use the Pain Relieving Lotion and notice a difference within a few minutes. Sometimes I would need a second application which Keri herself mentioned can be necessary with severe pain. Secondly, the scent. This product smells nothing like those drugstore creams and lotions that you’re thinking of. It doesn’t smell of chemicals- it smells fresh and clean. Even I was surprised that the cayenne sent wasn’t as strong as I expected.

Want to give Mo’s Dream Cream products a try? Use code “MOLLY4U” at checkout and you’ll get 10% off of all products/promotions. This code never expires! Click here to visit their site and please let me know in the comments if you purchase a product! I’d love to hear your opinion.

 

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Rheumatoid Arthritis

Slow And Steady

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For the previous nine months I had been in extreme pain. Painkillers 24/7 just to take the edge off and try not to throw up. Ice was mandatory just to drive to work. I tried injections, physical therapy. Nothing helped.

Two weeks ago I had knee surgery. I’ll spare you the details- knee cap realignment, degenerated meniscus, lots of cartilage/tissue work. I can already say that it was a success. I am off regular pain meds for my knee (my other joints miss their methotrexate and Humira badly though) and am ready to power through recovery. Or so I thought.

I’m still restricted to using crutches 24/7. I’m 100% compliant on stairs. When it’s a few steps to the kitchen or in my living room, I’m not so compliant. Tonight I went out to grab dinner with my husband. We parked in the handicapped spot and I decided to leave the crutches in the car and walk the few steps in, holding on to my husband for support. I felt a little weak in the knees (awww ?) but otherwise did just fine.

Fast forward a few hours later. Holy pain batman. My calf muscles feel like I have run a marathon (or what I imagine that to feel like. You all know I don’t run!). Both knees ache, my hips are mad, as is my lower back.

Stupid to walk without crutches? Maybe. But it was eye opening. This recovery is not going to be easy. It’s going to be hard. And painful. I think it was important for me to have this set back. Physcial therapy is going to be rough as is working full time in the office, rather than at home. I need to remember how the few steps tonight made me feel, so that I can focus on going slow and steady.

I’m embracing my new Tortoise Life and the reminder my husband had waiting for me in recovery at the hospital (see Cruiser below) needs to be with me at all times.

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Rheumatoid Arthritis

Cane I ask you a question?

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I broke down and ordered a cane today. A cane. I am extremely self conscious about this. When I mentioned the idea to my husband, he said that his fear is that I’m going to lose the ability to walk. I get that. I have that fear too. And it’s hard not to get pulled into that thought process.

But. I am not buying a cane to use for the rest of my life. I’m not buying a cane to use every day (I have every intention of hitting the gym this week). I am buying a cane for the same reason that I have bought a brace for almost every part of my body. For the same reason that my freezer is half full of ice packs. Just in case. For my bad days. For the days I need a little more support.

I will continue to take this disease day by day. Hour by hour if I have to. Yes, one day I’ll be killing it at the gym. And then the next day, I’ll be ordering a cane. All I ask is that you see me as a person who has good days and bad days. Not a person who picks and chooses when her illness affects her (wouldn’t that be nice). Keep inviting me to Fitbit challenges and keep asking how I’m doing. Whether I’m on the treadmill or walking with a cane, I’m me, not my disease.

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Diabetes Blog Week Rheumatoid Arthritis Type 1 Diabetes

Call me Diabetic but don’t call me Arthritic

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There is an old saying that states “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. I’m willing to bet we’ve all disagreed with this at some point, and especially when it comes to diabetes. Many advocate for the importance of using non-stigmatizing, inclusive and non-judgmental language when speaking about or to people with diabetes. For some, they don’t care, others care passionately. Where do you stand when it comes to “person with diabetes” versus “diabetic”, or “checking” blood sugar versus “testing”, or any of the tons of other examples? 

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I have had Type 1 diabetes for 28 years. I am a diabetic. I am also the child of a diabetic. I’m a mother, a daughter, a wife, a blogger, a worker, a neighbor, a knitter, an exerciser. I’m also a person with children, a person with a blog, a person who goes to the gym, etc. I am a lot of things. And all of those things define me. And that’s ok.

I use “diabetic” and “person with diabetes” interchangeably. I’ll tell a physician that I’ve had diabetes for years but in the next breath I might say to someone in the waiting room “oh this is my pump, I’m a diabetic”. I wouldn’t think twice.

Ready for a curve ball? I also have Rheumatoid Arthritis and I think I would be pissed if someone referred to me as arthritic. Just typing that word bothers me. Sure my joints are arthritic but I’m not. I can’t really put my finger on why arthritic bothers me so much yet diabetic doesn’t. I have come to terms with diabetes- I have it, I’ve had it for a long time, and I’ll always have it. Sure my blood sugars can be wonky but in a weird way, I’m used to that. But things are different with RA. RA is painful, it’s debilitating. I would take diabetes over RA in a heartbeat, I wouldn’t need to think about it.

So maybe that is my issue. I have diabetes but it doesn’t have me, so the terms and language don’t bother me at all. But most days, I feel like Rheumatoid Arthritis has me. It controls me. It decides if I’m going to cry in pain on the way to work or if the ice pack strapped to my leg will be enough. And maybe, I need to come to terms with that.

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Family Rheumatoid Arthritis

An Interview with my Husband

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Yesterday, I shared a brief interview I did with my daughter. Today it’s my husband, Sean’s, turn. Sean and I have been together for a long time (17 years) so my Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosis (2012) isn’t something he signed up for. I’ll let his answers speak for themselves but I will say that never has Sean doubted my pain. He’s never doubted how I feel and supports me 100%. He would do anything for me and I consider myself very lucky to have my best friend not only beside me going through life’s ups and downs, but beside me while I battle this jerk of a disease.

 

 

Do you ever feel frustrated or angry that I have Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Angry that life has dealt you a seemingly unfair hand.

Are you ever scared that our children will develop a chronic illness because they have my genes?

I’m not scared but certainly concerned.

Do you understand my disease? Are there questions you want to ask but haven’t?

I understand it well and have no questions.

How does your wife having RA affect your outlook on life?

My outlook has not changed.  I am concerned about the future.

Is there anything you miss from before I was diagnosed?

Yes.  There are physical limitations and considerations that must be accounted for when planning events.  We used to playfully wrestle.

How is/will your life be better because of your first hand experience with a chronic illness?

I am more informed and empathetic towards other who may suffer from RA.  I can offer advice and support if need be.

How would you explain Rheumatoid Arthritis to others?

Having the flu constantly with extreme pain in your joints.  An extreme loss of energy.

Are you concerned with my ability to continue working?

Yes

What do you perceive as the worst part of living with Rheumatoid Arthritis?

As a spouse of someone with RA, the worst part is watching the person you love the most suffer.  Watching them inject themselves with chemicals that hopefully reduce the suffering all the while knowing it is harmful.  As far as the person who lives with RA themselves, I think the hardest part would be the sudden change in ability to perform simple tasks.  The inability to keep pace with the normal world and suffer with unrelenting and unpredictable bouts of pain.  Feeling alone and not truly understood.

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