Today, October 12th is World Arthritis Day, an awareness day for one of the most debilitating illnesses out there. This is not so much a food post but a post about something very close to my heart ( and every other organ and muscle in my body!)
When we think of arthritis we immediately assume it to mean old age, but there are so many; young, middle aged and old who suffer from the effects of arthritis.
Awareness of inflammatory arthritis and autoimmune conditions is important to me because I live with Rheumatoid Arthritis. RA is an autoimmune, chronic illness that is slowly wearing down my joints because of inflammation.
I find many still don’t know about RA and sometimes it’s hard for them to understand why I cannot commit to certain events or programs. They take my reluctance to participate as indifference or laziness even. Believe me, if you knew me before my RA, you would never have thought me lazy. I couldn’t sit still for a moment. Now, it is torture for me to sit and watch when I want so much to do.
Here is the official description of RA, according to The Arthritis Foundation:
“Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is a form of inflammatory arthritis and an autoimmune disease. For reasons no one fully understands, in rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system – which is designed to protect our health by attacking foreign cells such as viruses and bacteria – instead attacks the body’s own tissues, specifically the synovium, a thin membrane that lines the joints. As a result of the attack, fluid builds up in the joints, causing pain in the joints and inflammation that’s systemic – meaning it can occur throughout the body.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease, meaning it can’t be cured. Most people with RA experience intermittent bouts of intense disease activity, called flares. In some people the disease is continuously active and gets worse over time. Others enjoy long periods of remission – no disease activity or symptoms at all. Evidence shows that early diagnosis and aggressive treatment to put the disease into remission is the best means of avoiding joint destruction, organ damage and disability.
The symptoms and course of rheumatoid arthritis vary from person to person and can change on a daily basis. Your joints may feel warm to the touch and you might notice a decreased range of motion, as well as inflammation, swelling and pain in the areas around the affected joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is symmetrical, meaning if a joint on one side of the body is affected, the corresponding joint on the other side of the body is also involved. Because the inflammation is systemic, you’re likely to feel fatigued and you may become anemic, lose your appetite and run a low-grade fever.
Rheumatoid arthritis may affect many different joints and cause damage to cartilage, tendons and ligaments – it can even wear away the ends of your bones. One common outcome is joint deformity and disability. Some people with RA develop rheumatoid nodules; lumps of tissue that form under the skin, often over bony areas exposed to pressure. These occur most often around the elbows but can be found elsewhere on the body, such as on the fingers, over the spine or on the heels. Over time, the inflammation that characterizes RA can also affect numerous organs and internal systems.”
I would like to say, however, that I am one of the lucky ones. I am fit enough to still be able to walk, and hike and have the use of my hands. I can even run up a flight of stairs! Which is a miracle, actually. I don’t have major deformation of any joints and from the outside (apart from my contracted knees) I look fairly normal (of course, that’s also a matter of opinion!) However, inside my body there is war raging and my joints are losing.
There are so many people suffering from RA and other forms of autoimmune and inflammatory arthritis that cannot walk, or use their hands. Their joints are deformed and they have lost all function. They are tired all the time and take strong medications that make their hair fall out, or make them nauseous or have them tied to an IV drip every few months.
My RA is under control after trials and errors with different medications and treatments. I do take very strong medications that make my hair fall out, nauseous and very, very tired. I struggle with pain every day and I have no motivation most of the time and it takes everything I have to get myself out of bed….and this is on a good day.
There have been times that I, physically, have not been able to get out of my bed. The pain is relentless and crippling. Sometimes the pain is so bad, you can do nothing but sit and let the tears pour down. For some people this is an everyday reality, for me, thank goodness, my RA is under control with medication and unless I have a flare up I am alright. I am one of the luckier ones.
Having said that there have been many times my husband has carried me around the house. He has helped me get dressed, take a shower, washed my hair, fed me and looked after our children. He has been my hands and feet when mine haven’t worked. I truly believe, he was sent to me for a reason. I don’t know anyone else that has done and would do all the things he has done for me. He has wiped away tears of desperation and hopelessness; tears of anger and resentment. He has kept me smiling for the last 12 years of this illness with his sense of humour and his undying love and support.
I don’t want to go on about myself because I really don’t like being centre of attention, especially where my illness is concerned. I just wanted to do a post to tell as many people as I could about inflammatory arthritis. I want them to understand and in turn, maybe understand and support someone who is afflicted with this illness. If you want to imagine what it feels like: imagine every joint in your body slowly being pulled apart, over and over again.
Many times we look normal and act normal, but we struggle with depression, fatigue, pain on a regular basis and the inability to perform simple tasks like opening a jar or kicking a ball around with your son. It is frustrating.
So, on this day, seek out an arthritic and hug them! We need your love, support and understanding. I hope that when you don’t see me post for long periods of time, you will send a happy thought my way because the only thing that keeps me from cooking, baking and writing is my health.
As always, thank you for reading and for your support!
Some Arthritis support and education resources: