What Rheumatoid Awareness Means to Me
*Note: this post is part of a Blog Carnival, coordinated by RA Warrior at http://rawarrior.com/
February 2, 2014 is Rheumatoid Awareness Day and as a blogger in the rheum community, there is an invitation to participate in this awareness activity by featuring a blog post to talk about awareness. http://rawarrior.com/what-would-rheumatoid-awareness-mean-to-you/ I knew this was something I wanted to add my voice to.
Awareness, what would that mean? The reason for having a Rheumatoid Awareness Day according to the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation http://rheum4us.org/ is to overcome the misconception that rheumatoid disease is simply a form of arthritis. This is really important for those of us with RD as it is all too common that people hear you say you have rheumatoid arthritis but they think osteoarthritis. By taking the word ARTHRITIS out of the description it will help with the confusion. Awareness of that alone would make things a lot better.
Rheumatoid disease is more than stiff joints or aches and pains like those experienced with osteoarthritis. RD is a progressive inflammatory auto-immune disease with symptoms of joint pain and stiffness like osteo but it also brings with it severe fatigue, mobility issues, disability, extreme pain along with damage, (often permanent) to joints as well as other organs and tissues. When you are experiencing a flare, or active inflammation, the impact on your daily life is enormous. Heart health is also of particular concern for anyone with RD. Along with the disease itself, many of the medications used to manage RD also take their toll on your organs, specifically liver and heart function. Rheumatoid disease is a serious health condition that impacts people of all ages. It is not JUST arthritis.
When asked what Rheumatoid Awareness Day means to me I would say that it is important to me as it will bring more relevance, understanding, education and facts to the forefront. Then, with heightened awareness, hopefully more study, research and development will be done for finding a cure and improving the lives of those with RD.
My life has been impacted by Rheumatoid disease since the age of eight. It is part of my daily life and plays a significant role in my overall health. Last year I had a diagnosis of aggressive breast cancer resulting in a year of treatments and surgeries. When making choices for the best treatment protocol for my cancer I worked closely with my medical team to ensure that while we were treating the breast cancer we were also taking my Rheumatoid disease into consideration. It made a difference and my treatment was altered as a result. So as all encompassing as a year of being diagnosed and treated for cancer may be it really was a small blip along my overall journey. My ongoing primary health issue is my Rheumatoid disease and I am aware of it every day.
I am feeling empowered by having a Rheumatoid Awareness Day and look forward to new developments being made in research. In the meantime, I will continue to be an advocate and a voice for awareness in my own way, and I encourage others to do so as well. While RD plays a significant role in my life I still like to think that I can kick it to the curb and minimize its control over my life. Attitude plays a big role, and I like to think that I am not just surviving but thriving. Some days I’m just better at it than others.