Friday, March 9, 2018

5 Positive Ways that Rheumatoid Arthritis Turned My Life Upside Down

This post contains an affiliate link.

I know you're looking at the title to this post and thinking what could be good about having rheumatoid arthritis? Or maybe you're thinking: "she's done so much whining about having RA and now she's saying it's good?"

Well, after a year of living with this diagnosis, I've learned a lot about the disease. I've also adapted to the disease and for the most part, am living the life I lived before the diagnosis. Maybe even a better life, if that is possible.

I'm not sugarcoating life with RA. Yes, the diagnosis turned my life upside down. I take toxic medications to keep the disease activity low. I have daily symptoms of achy and swollen joints. I've had a few health scares, most recently liver toxicity from methotrexate, one of the medications I was taking to control my disease. If I had to choose, I'd rather not have RA.

But in spite of having a life-changing medical condition, so much good has happened over the past year. Sometimes it takes a slap in the face in the form of a devastating health problem to make you see all the good things in life. While the bad days are few, I've learned to appreciate all the good in my life more than ever.



I'm eating so much healthier. 
Once the dust settled and I realized that I needed to learn to live with RA, I started making changes in my diet. I was already making morning smoothies for my youngest son, something I started doing after he broke his leg the year before. He convinced me to start drinking morning smoothies with him and I haven't looked back. I've learned a lot about foods that help with inflammation as well as foods that make it worse. I do indulge in "unhealthy" foods at least once a week--we have pizza on Friday nights--but for the most part, I'm eating really well.

Lots of fruits and veggies plus that GLG collagen hydrolysate provide me with lots of power against inflammation
The changes to my diet didn't happen overnight. I gradually incorporated more anti-inflammatory foods into my diet and it became easier with every change I made. My family had to be on board too and they've adjusted to eating more fish and whole grains. The most difficult change I've had to make is giving up my nightly glass of wine. That is something my husband and I have enjoyed together since we've been married. I won't deny that I miss drinking wine. After my liver toxicity resolves, I'll go back to drinking wine, but not nightly.

I am more determined than ever to stay active.
I wake up every morning with stiff, achy hands and feet. Sometimes stiff achy elbows, hips, and knees. That first couple of steps after getting out of bed can be difficult. For the first time in my life, I totally understand people who don't want to get up off the couch. But as I move about in the morning and prepare my morning coffee, I loosen up and start to feel less pain. I take my time getting ready in the morning and not only does that help me physically, it also mentally prepares me for my day.

I've always been an active person and my fears that I wouldn't be able to keep up with my level of activity have diminished. I had one of my highest mileage years of running in 2017, with 1076 miles, and 2018 is on pace to continue that way. Although my paces have slowed and I have been using run/walk intervals to keep me moving, that's not necessarily a bad thing because running slower has helped prevent injuries. The cross-training and yoga help too.


I am rarely cold.
Let me back up a bit. I do feel chilled sometimes, but I don't seem to be as bothered by the cold as I was in the past. We've had one of the coldest winters I can remember, yet I didn't need to use hand warmers on my runs--just wearing gloves was enough. Prior to having RA, my hands were always cold and I had to double up on the gloves. Now with my ever-present inflammation, my hands are warm and toasty. I guess it's a double-edged sword--those red, warm hands mean that my RA is active. But on the other hand, it sure beats having numb fingers!

Look Ma, no gloves!
I don't sweat the little things. 
Maybe it's because I am a nurse practitioner or maybe it's because I'm a runner, but since my diagnosis with RA, I don't stress as much over the everyday annoyances we all have to deal with. Ok, maybe those bad drivers get under my skin and patients who arrive late really stick in my craw. And then there are people who throw garbage out the window like the world is their personal trash can. Oh, don't even get me started on all the political commercials that are playing on TV right now.

Sorry, where were we?

Ok, maybe I do still have a low tolerance for nonsense. Some things, I just can't change. But I am learning to let go of things I can't control. I sure can't control this disease. Letting go of control is a work in progress. When everything is spinning out of control, I like to remind myself that things could always be worse. That philosophy applies to everything in my life now.


I am grateful for everything I can do.
In spite of continuing to have moderate disease activity, I continue to run all the miles, lift all the weights, and do all the poses. Since my diagnosis, I've run 4 half marathons, a 10 mile race, a couple 10ks, and 5ks. I recently PR'd my back squats and I'm working on PRing my deadlifts. I've kicked up into an unassisted handstand. I can slalom with Holly. I work part-time as a pediatric nurse practitioner and I'm raising 2 young adults--one who is giving me more gray hair than my colorist can keep up with.

The sky is still the limit.


What lessons have you learned from a life challenge? Do you let your health limit you from chasing your dreams or reaching your goals?

I'm linking this post with the Friday Five aka Running on Happy and Fairytales and Fitness.

50 comments :

  1. I love that you wrote this after a full year of what I'm sure has been really low, lows and trying to keep yourself positive. It's so important to highlight the GOOD, even with something as bad as RA. And the finger warmth is definitely a bonus. But seriously, you are inspiring others to MOVE and make no excuses and that is always a good thing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh trust me, there are days when I want to stay in bed (like today) but I know how badly I'll feel if I do!

      Delete
  2. I think you've done a great job "rebounding" from your diagnosis. Even though you can't change what's there, you've accepted it and moved on. I don't need to elaborate on my life-changing episode last summer. It reinforced the value in staying positive in all situations...I have a new appreciation for every run, even all the bad ones when I am freezing cold or my body wants to quit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The threat of having the run taken away from us sure changes perspective, doesn't it?

      Delete
  3. I think this is the essence of life. It throws us curve balls and we can adapt to figure out a way to hit them out of the park anyway...or in some cases, not. Adversity sure gives us perspective, right?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Doesn't sound like this held you back and you are still enjoying your runs and staying active. My hand are freezing all the time and I am usually the one wearing in a tank top with gloves...haha.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Full disclosure: I do get cold but not like I used to! Now I end up taking my gloves off most of the time. So weird!

      Delete
  5. Of course no one every chooses to have a disease or be ill, but even the most dire challenges can have silver linings -- you just have to look for them. And be open to change -- I think that is one of the secrets to staying young!

    ReplyDelete
  6. 'Don't sweat the small stuff (and it's ALL small stuff)' is one of my many mantras. I try to let pretty much everything roll off my back...but of course I still have the nightly wine. As you know, much of your success in maintaining your healthy, positive attitude. PMA all the way!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Today threatened to break my resolve to stay positive--but I prevailed.

      Delete
  7. I have greatly admired how you tackle your RA with such grace and determination. You really are an amazing role model. Did not know about the temperature thing. Proof that a diagnosis does not have to limit you or define you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's not always sunshine and rainbows but the fact that I can keep up with my workouts makes me very happy!

      Delete
  8. I love that you can find the good in your RA. It’s a great reminder that we all have our crosses to bear, and we have the choice of whether to be overcome or to carry on, hopefully with a positive attitude.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think being in such good shape, physically, had to help me keep RA's damage to a minimum!

      Delete
  9. As Hemingway famously said, "grace under pressure." You are the living example, a role model in more ways than I can count.

    ReplyDelete
  10. When Paul started having health problems, I started to really, REALLY feel grateful for just any day we had together. Even a boring day. Even a day I'm at work and he's at home. At least he's not in the hospital.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's amazing how health problems can change your whole perspective. I'm glad he's doing so well.

      Delete
  11. Kudos to you for finding all of the positive in such a life changing diagnosis. It’s so easy to focus on the negative when you receive such news, but you continue to do an amazing job staying on top of everything, both physically and emotionally.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Since my diagnosis, I have kept my focus on maintaining my fitness level. I'm not ready to give in yet. I've got too much I want to do!

      Delete
  12. Great attitude!!! I luckily have never had any kind of health or setback of any kind this far in my life but if I do I hope I handle as positively as you.

    ReplyDelete
  13. For me, when I'm injured (which is a lot lately) I just try to focus on other things I can do then running. Love that you are finding positives in a challenging time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It I couldn't still run, my attitude might be different. So I'm really grateful for what I can do.

      Delete
  14. The small things definitely get to me. It's hard not to get frustrated at the world, and you've got a great attitude.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do get frustrated easily--but I think that having bigger things on my plate have helped temper that.

      Delete
  15. Those are great lessons to have learned! Stay strong!!

    ReplyDelete
  16. I love your perspective on this. :) And not being cold anymore? I could get so down with that benefit. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I"m trying! The good thing about all this is that the changes I've made since my diagnosis have really impacted me positively. I feel so lucky.

      Delete
  17. Good question with regards to health as a limitation to achieving your goals - it's something I am struggling with right now because I set a goal to try to BQ this year but my body isn't handling the physical stress of training (as well as other stresses) I currently have. I'm trying to weigh the health vs. performance factor and I think I may have to slow down a little for me to maintain my health.
    I love how you always turn the negatives into positives! Keep inspiring us :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As recently as 18 months ago, I thought a BQ was within my reach. I registered for a marathon (Grandma's) guaranteed to give me a good finish time. And then I was diagnosed with RA. So I had to decide. The BQ was out. Do I run a marathon and risk injury or worsening RA symptoms? Or do I just cut my losses and run. You know what I did. My priority now is to just keep running. I know how happy I am when I'm moving. That's what's important now.

      Delete
  18. This is such a great post. You're a strong, amazing woman. A little RA won't keep you down!!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Im so glad you are able to see some of the positives from this really tough situation. I guess in a similar way injuries have taught me not to take running for granted and has forced me to balance my life a little bit better. I don't really think it can compare to a life-changing illness, but I do think its helpful to find the positives in a challenging situation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think anything that limits us from doing what we love is tough--be it illness or injury!

      Delete
  20. You Rock! I love that you have found the positives... sometimes that is half the battle.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It certainly hasn't been has awful as I thought! I think being able to stay active is the key to keeping me happy.

      Delete
  21. I'm always so impressed with your positive attitude, Wendy! There's no way this disease would change that. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have my moments...but thankfully, they pass quickly!

      Delete
  22. I ADORE your positive attitude! My dad was recently diagnosed with RA. The first thing the doctors suggested was changes in diet, which of course, he was NOT as positive about, haha!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It takes time to adjust to such a life-changing diagnosis. The diet changes were tough at first!

      Delete
  23. I think either getting a scary medical diagnosis yourself, or seeing a family member get one, can lead to a lot of positive changes in attitude and lifestyle. That said, it would be nice to not have to deal with this, but you seem to be working through your RA diagnosis quite well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So far, I've adjusted pretty well. Hoping that stopping my methotrexate doesn't cause too much inflammation to return.

      Delete
  24. Glad you are able to look at the positives.

    You are active. You are running. And you are faster than most runners your age.

    I'd say, you are a lucky lady.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I feel extremely lucky! I think that being in such good shape prior to my diagnosis was to my benefit.

      Delete
  25. I loved reading your thoughts about how you've taken living with RA and are making the best of it! Keep on rocking those runs, yoga poses and weight lifting PRs!

    ReplyDelete