A Day in My Life

By Tami Borcherding, told to Sarah Ludwig Rausch

I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) 10 years ago, the summer before the birth of my first grandchild. Before I went to see my doctor, I knew something was going on. A few mornings I couldn’t move my hands because they were so tight and stiff. Fortunately, my doctor diagnosed my RA early on, so by the time I got to a point where it was really hard, I was already on a regimen.

At first, I didn’t know much about PR, so I read a lot. What stood out to me the most was what my doctor said, “The way you deal with it determines how it progresses. You have to determine which path you want to be on. I decided I could either sit down and be sad about having RA or just say, ‘So I have RA. I need to continue. There are a lot of things in my life that are good. I made this choice very early on and it worked for me.

Living with the physical effects

With RA, each case is different and also progresses differently. On the outside, you’ll never know I have it, and for the most part, that doesn’t stop what I do. The AR mainly affected my hands, but I don’t have it as much anymore. I attribute this to all the sewing I do. (I have made 1,200 masks for our local hospitals in the past 10 months.) The joints in my feet are the most affected. For 2 years, I have also felt it in my shoulders.

I have had a few breakouts over the years I wake up and can’t even get out of bed for a while. For the most part, I don’t have much pain in the morning, but I am stiff and sore if I use a lot of joints during the day. Now I know I have to stop doing something when I can tell it’s really about this joint. But I also know you use it or lose it – I must be in a bit of pain because if I don’t my joints will stiffen and I will lose my mobility.

Continued

My rheumatoid arthritis doctor said he notices my joints are starting to wear out more and more so I don’t sit for long periods of time because I know it will be difficult to stand up. It is difficult to get up from the ground. The pain in my feet is bad enough that I know I can’t use them for balance as much as I used to. It’s a little different, but it didn’t really stop me from doing anything. I know it can come, but for now I’m going to take it and be positive about it.

I retired 2 years ago, but I was a preschool teacher for 35 years, and it was a blessing to me. I needed to hug the kids, get on the floor with them and hold them, so it forced me to use my joints. I think this is a big reason why my RA was not as painful as it could have been. Before the pandemic, I used to help the school when it needed extra hands because I like to keep busy.

I have a degree in music and I sang for public events like weddings. I don’t sing anymore because doctors think RA has taken hold in my vocal domain. It was hard. But little kids don’t care if I sing well or not, so I can still sing along with them and they think it’s wonderful.

Medication management

Right now I’m on a methotrexate and sulfasalazine regimen, and they’ve been working for several years. I had two failed meds before this which is no fun. First, I had to be weaned off the current medication for 2-3 months. Then I started a new one, and it took a few months to find out if it was working or not. You can also take medication and this may eventually stop helping. I’m thankful that what I’m doing now is working, but if that fails my next injection will be an injection.

I do blood tests every 3 months to make sure my medications are working and twice a year for a physical exam. I also have a bone density test every 3 years because RA really affects the strength of your bones.

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Making the most of life

My husband, Lynn, was diagnosed with cancer in 2017. He says we take care of each other now. With COVID, we’re not outside like we used to be, and I can tell if I’ve been away for a few days without doing much. I wake up in the morning and think, “I’m not moving very well. I’d better take care of myself!

My doctor gave me hand and movement exercises which I do quite religiously. I also pay attention to my diet. If I have a lot of dairy for a few days my joints are stiffer and more swollen, so I limit dairy, chocolate, and red meat. The heat helps a lot. I used two heating pads. We even invested in a spa about 7 years ago, and it really relieves the pain.

I think a good attitude helps. I know I have to get the most out of everything I do. If there is a little pain, I remember there are a lot of people in the world who are in much more pain. I cannot live in fear that one day I will not be able to walk very well or that I will no longer be able to sew. I can now, so let’s go!

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Sources

SOURCE:

Tami Borcherding, retired kindergarten teacher, Menomonie, WI.


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