Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis

In Audacious People by Phyllis Jennings

First let me introduce myself. My name is Phyllis Jennings. I live in Princeton, West Virginia. I just turned 50 in May of this year. I am married and have one daughter. I am one of 5 children (3 girls and 2 boys) and the only one that has rheumatoid arthritis. The doctors are always surprised by this because they say usually someone else in the family has it. Oh well, guess I was the lucky one for some reason. Actually if someone in my family had to have it I’m glad it wasn’t one of them. I wouldn’t wish this disease on anybody.

Phyllis Jennings

I had only been married for six years when my husband and I started thinking about having a child. I went to the doctor for an exam and to get the all clear, that’s when I found out that I had a cyst on my ovary and needed surgery to have it removed before I could get pregnant. I immediately had the surgery. I came through the surgery fine but later that evening I developed a cold. That cold wasn’t treated. A few weeks later I started having trouble walking. I just thought it was my shoes. I bought another pair still didn’t help. I still didn’t think much about it .Then my hands started getting sore and painful .I just thought I had used them to much .A few days after that I woke up and could not put any weight on my right ankle. It was red and swollen. My husband took me to the emergency room where test were run and it came back positive for rheumatoid arthritis. I remember the doctor telling me I had “rich man’s disease”. I later found out that meant lots of money for treatments and doctors visits.

Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease, is when the joint lining becomes inflamed as part of the body’s immune system activity. Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most serious and disabling types.

My first year, I could not get out of a chair without someone helping me up. I was always tired and just slept. I became very depressed that year too. My mom wanted to help with the house work but I pushed her away. I knew if I let her do this I would give up. I finally found a doctor that could treat my arthritis; we started out doing gold injections. After about a month I started to see some improvement and started be able to move on my own. I was able to take those gold injections for 5 years. It would have been longer but I became pregnant and was advised to get off for the baby. What’s really strange was while I was pregnant my arthritis went into remission. I was pain free for those nine months. But after the birth of my beautiful healthy daughter the arthritis came back and I had to get back on medications.

Now after 26 years of rheumatoid arthritis I am facing my first surgery. I have been told that both knees are bone on bone and need total replacement. After that my hands will probably be the next thing fixed. Even though I can use my hands, they are turned and twisted and look terrible. I type this story with two fingers because of the shape of my hands. Arthritis is a cruel disease. It’s very painful and that pain is constant. Unfortunately my body is affected in most all my joints, hands, knees, jaws, ankles, feet and elbows.

Here are a few facts from the Arthritis Foundation. In 2005-65 million (nearly 1 in three adults) have some form of arthritis.

Arthritis is second only to heart disease as a cause of work disability.

Arthritis limits everyday activities such as walking, dressing, and bathing for more than 7 million Americans.

Arthritis refers to more than 100 different diseases that affect areas in or around the joint.

Arthritis strikes women more than men.

Over all, arthritis strikes over 41 million women and 26.9 million men.
Here are some symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis : Joint tenderness, warmth ,and swelling. Pain and stiffness lasting for more than 1 hour in the morning. Joint inflammation in the wrist and finger joints closest to the hand. Fatigue, an occasional fever, and a general sense of not feeling well. If you have joint pain, stiffness or swelling lasting for more than 2 weeks. T alk with

a doctor.

It’s not known what causes Rheumatoid Arthritis although, hereditary has been mentioned. Also, it has been mentioned that infections or possibly a virus could be a factor. As for me, I think mine came from that cold that wasn’t treated when I was in the hospital.

Rheumatoid arthritis is painful but there are treatments that can help to manage the pain. I’m sure you have heard about some them being recalled recently. The road is a rough one at times but don’t give up, life is worth living. There is help out there.
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