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Woohoo!! I’m feeling better!

I’m so excited to finally share this news with all of you! At the beginning of this month, I got the results of my Vectra DA. If you look at the graph, you can clearly see that in January of 2013-when I was on Actemra-my score was at 51 (High), six months later it went down to a 34 (Moderate), and almost a year after that-while I’ve been on Orencia-it went down to a 30! My RA is now showing a score of 30, which is bordering the Low and Moderate scale disease activity and the lowest it’s EVER been! Woohoo!!! 😀
Click the Link to learn more about Vectra DA, and exactly how it’s helping thousands of RAers like me!

I’d love to go into scientific detail on exactly how this cool test works on just one vial of blood, but I think what’s more important is how it’s affected me and changed my life
Am I right? So here’s the crazy story… 
In 2009, I was seeing the same Rheumatologist I had been seeing nearly my whole life. I kept telling him that my joints were really bothering me and that it was interfering with my life. It got to the point that I even had to quit school for a short time because I couldn’t walk from one class to another. After a couple months of continued deterioration due to the pain, stiffness, swelling, fatigue, etc my husband, Andres, asked him if he would put me on one of those Biologics you see on TV (Enbrel). He said, “No,” because he felt [my] joints and couldn’t detect substantial swelling.” 
…Mind you, all he did was touch them with his hands…
He told me straight to my face that he believed all my symptoms were “not due to the Arthritis” and that it was “in my head.” He then continued to tell Andres and I that there was nothing that we could do and I would never be able to do things normal people could do or walk without pain again. I was in tears and Andres was just plain angryWe never saw him again after that. 
A week later we found my this amazing Rheumatologist and he told me he believed he could get my Arthritis under control and that same day he started me on Enbrel. It worked great for about a year, but my lovely antibodies decided it was time to to say bye-bye and it stopped working. The appointment right before our wedding, we all decided that when Andres and I came back from Hawaii, I’d be switched to Remicade. I had very high hopes, knowing many of my rheumy friends responded well to this drug, but unfortunately, it didn’t work for a second. 

Then, one day we were in the Infusion Room when Andres saw a pamphlet for this iPhone app called MyRA. We both thought it was kind of genius that someone had thought about making an app to track your symptoms. I had tried tracking my symptoms in the past using various little booklets and journals but really couldn’t get into the swing of it. It was just so hard to know where to start! Plus, I would feel so different from one day to the next that in order to get any reliable data I would have to write a novel of information 
everysingleday.  Not to mention, writing about all the pain, stiffness, swelling, nausea, etc I was feeling each and every day felt more like a chore instead of something I actually looked forward to. It got old quick. So when I downloaded this app and saw how easy it was to use and fun even with the little MyRA cartoon, my hubby, intrigued, looked up the company. He saw that the company, Crescendo Bioscience, had just recently developed this advanced blood test for people with Rheumatoid Arthritis. After reading about the test we immediately talked to my Rheumatologist about it, who thought it was a marvelous idea, and two weeks later we got the score showing High Disease Activity. The results felt so accurate to me, that I was in shock! 

I’m not recommending everyone with RA take this blood test just because it’s the latest technology and the first multi-biomarker blood test for RA. I’m recommending everyone take it because it truly helped me and changed my life. Rheumatoid Arthritis is largely an invisible illness, until its not. You can’t detect that damage is happening until it’s already happened. For me, because I haven’t experienced lots of joint damage, my doctor didn’t believe my symptoms were real! Getting the Vectra DA test done not only saved me a lot of time because I can see if the treatments are working or not, but it also gave me confidence in myself and in my doctor that we are on a path to better health

So now that I’m feeling way better and I have finally found a treatment that has been proven to work, I’m on to the adventures I’ve been planning for years now!
…..Maybe I should rename this blog to: The Adventures of Arthritis Girl.
Whaddaya think?? 

*This testimony is based on my personal experience. I am not a medical professional, but urge anyone interested in taking Vectra DA to seek the advice of their doctor.

In Loving Memory

I was going to write about something completely different today. I had been preparing all week to write about some very good news I’ve been wanting to share with you all. 
Oh, how life suddenly throws you a curve ball.

Yesterday my childhood companion passed away from FIV (Feline HIV)

He really was the best kitty cat in the entire world and I can’t tell you how much comfort he gave me during my school years when I suffered from depression and my Arthritis came back with a vengeance. He slept with me every single night and was truly my cat. I’ll never forget the moment he came home for the very first time, rescued by a friend from a bush near the Metro Rail. As soon as my mother walked in the door holding a cardboard box and in it this fuzzy, grey kitten with a missing toe, she said, “He’s ugly.” I, of course, protested, “No he’s not! He’s beautiful!”       It was love at first sight. 
The day I grew up and moved out of my parent’s house and in with my highly-allergic husband, I cried knowing I would have to leave him behind. I hoped he would be watched over and not feel replaced by my new sleeping companion. All those years before of broken hearts and puppy love, I had still always told him that he was “the only man in my life.” 

The night before I took him to get put to sleep, my parents texted me and told me he hadn’t eaten in at least three days and was meowing in excruciating pain. A few weeks earlier, we had taken him to the Veterinarian to get a dental cleaning when the doctor told us he had a severe oral infection caused by his FIV and there was nothing we could do to cure or treat the virus. Even after the doctor attempted to clean out the infection as much as possible he was still having difficulty eating and was losing a lot of weight, but he had never gone this long without eating and I knew it was time. 
The next morning was so strange. Kiki had always been terrified of his faux-fur lined carrier and would meow VERY loudly just being in the parking lot of the Vet’s office. But that morning, he was so quiet, not making a sound. He seemed to be at such peace, and to me, it felt as if he was almost thanking me for ending his suffering and letting him pass on with dignity
In Loving Memory of Kiki Bubba, 4/10/2005 – 5/4/2014

    Because I have Arthritis, I know pain. I can relate to his suffering more than anyone. Sometimes, even I feel like if there was euthanasia for people, I’d want someone who loved me to end my pain and let me die. Not many people know that RA is a potentially life-threatening illness, with complications ranging from increased risk of Cancer to inflammation of the heart muscle leading to congestive heart failure. I can’t tell you how difficult it is living with a chronic illness that lowers the quality of my life as well as the quantity of my life. This isn’t something like Cancer where I’ll suffer through illness and physical pain for a few years and then either succumb to death or become a survivor through remission. Arthritis is something that is a part of me, that is so ingrained in the immune cells of my body that there is not hope of “beating it.” Arthritis is something I have to survive with for the rest of my life and hope there will be a life-long treatment that can control my symptoms. I’m not saying people with Cancer are less than people with Arthritis. They’re not to be compared. It’s like apples and oranges. None is worst than the other. They’re both horrible and I wouldn’t trade either one for the other. Although I can say there is something about death that seems peaceful to me. I guess it’s the thought that I’ll go to heaven and God will make me perfect like Him. Finally being able run and jump without pain. I like to close my eyes and imagine that’s how Kiki is living now, chasing birds and catching lizards like he used to, without pain. And that brings me great comfort, knowing he’s happy and watching over me now. 

The people who say, “Think of those who have a disease worst than you,”
are wrong. All illnesses, all diseases are not to be compared. 
We are all the toughest people I know. 

GROW: A Hobby I’m ABLE to Do

 I am definitely a hobbist! Ever since I was little, I’ve always been one to have several hobbies going at the same time. When I was 5, right before I got diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis I was really into gymnastics. Even at that age, I will never forget the disappointment that hit me when my Rheumatologist told me I’d have to quit. I remember protesting, “but I LOVE tumbling around doing cartwheels and round-offs!” 

How cute are these $1 kits from Target?

 That’s when he suggested I take piano lessons instead, knowing it would be good physical therapy and less pressure on my joints. My first day of lessons I learned how to play Mary had a little lamb, and I was SO proud! I kept learning and through the years I ended up taking voice lessons, clarinet lessons, violin lessons, art, drama, scrapbooking, you name it. Anything creative, I loved and by the time I got to high school I was doing as many hobbies and extracurriculars as my school schedule could handle. 
I did All-State Choir, I did Orchestra, I sang in Dinner Theatre, I even did a sculpture at Miami Beach Art Basel. Looking back now, it’s such an A-ha moment because I would’ve never found my love for the Arts if it hadn’t been for Arthritis

Baby booties I made last year
for my dear friend’s first grandchild
 Nowadays, my swollen hands make it impossible to do any of those things. Being disabled, I find it’s easy to get caught up in feelings of inadequacy, not to mention boredom. I mean, just think of the word! DISABLED It feels like it just labels me as “can’t-contribute-to-society.” 
It’s horrible! To me, that’s not living, that’s not thriving, that’s not anything. It’s just existing and what kind of life is that?  That’s why I find it so therapeutic to have a hobby to feel like I have goals and accomplishments! I just set a goal (i.e. I want to learn how to hem pants) and then practice and read and learn how to do it! (i.e. pants now hemmed by me!)
 Since having to sign up for disability, I’ve done crafting, crocheting, sewing, painting, and cooking. Not all my projects have come out amazing (or edible), but a few have come out pretty good. 🙂 Lately, however, with my hands getting worse, even these hobbies have become truly impossible. The joints in my hands just can’t do the movements necessary to do these things and when I try, they end up hugely swollen and painful for a week. 
Left: Tomato, Middle: Basil, Right: Another type of Tomato

But I can’t let that bring me down! I’ll just find a new hobby! Something that I am ABLE to do. So I’m going to try gardening. My in-laws are brilliant chefs and seeing as we spend so much money on herbs and veggies, I thought I’d try to save some money and have fun by planting my own! Hopefully the Florida heatwave doesn’t kill my plants, but if it does, what’s important is that I’m having fun learning something new. 

I’m not going to let being DIS-Abled prevent me from enjoying life. I’ll just find something that I am ABLE to do. Here’s to trying new things! 

Labels and Reunions

I’ve had this 18 years and I still have a hard time saying the words sometimes…
I have Rheumatoid Arthritis”. Sometimes I don’t want to just because I wish it wasn’t true! It’s the words that bother me. 
The labels:  “I am sick”  “I can’t keep up with you”  “I am disabled”  “I am not normal”  “I am not well enough to do the things you do

It feels like these words are being tattooed onto my forehead as soon as I reveal what’s “wrong” with me. I’ve come to terms with having this disease and I’ve even come to terms with my fate. I’m still stuck on the labels.

I think most people get nervous when they’re going to a reunion. You worry that you’ve gained weight or that people won’t recognize you. You think about whether your life will be considered “successful” in the eyes of your peers. 


I mean, most of these people you haven’t seen in probably 10+ years and you’re worried if you’re on the same level as them in life. (..As if there were really ‘levels’..) It’s normal to feel that way! 

It can be really difficult because my normal is so different than people my age. I’m looking for treatments while they’re looking at houses. They’re experiencing morning sickness from pregnancy and I’m throwing up from chemo. It’s definitely not easy.
I’m not beyond this kind of thinking and comparing, but I need to be
I need to realize that just because I am disabled, it doesn’t mean I’m any less than my highschool friends!

I have an amazing husband who supports me in everything I do, I have friends who are always slowing down for me, I have all these readers who are fighting alongside me! Who cares what people think?! That sounds like Success to me!

Pain-o Dreams

It was a beautiful day. Bright and sunny, with not a cloud in sight as only it could be in Florida, my home state. I sat on the green, diamond patterned metal bench admiring the beauty of all that was around me when I felt a slight squeeze in my left hand, bringing me back down to planet Earth.
“Wanna go on Space Mountain?” asked my husband, his face glistening with a slight sweat but thrilled nonetheless. 
“Sure! Let’s go.” I replied, as I flashed him a grin. 
We strolled to the entrance of a very familiar indoor roller coaster without a worry in the world. As we walked through rows of metal line-forming bars, the ground sloped and the lights dimmed. Andres and I giggled as we quickly passed moving images of suns and stars and planets. As the ground continued to incline, my pace slowed. Steeper and steeper the floor angled, we joked about how much further we would have to go. Steeper and steeper- OK now- too steep. The pain came and so did the sweat as I huffed with exertion. He soon disappeared behind a corner as he sifted through the line casually. I grabbed onto the metal bars just in time. My knees, they weren’t working and the pain was too much to handle. I tried so hard to keep going, to reach the summit. I felt as though the weight of the world were crushing my now-swollen joints.
Suddenly, I wasn’t in the darkened tunnel of the line, I was in my bedroom- awake now- but something was off. Why hadn’t the pain gone away? Why were my knees and ankles still hurting as though I had just climbed a steep hill? Oh yeah… I remember now. This is just another symptom of a very familiar condition. More familiar than the entrance to my husband’s favorite ride at a popular theme park. These thoughts and images of what really happened on our Disney World vacation flooded my mind. I never climbed that steep hill. The exertion wasn’t my own, it was my husband’s as he pushed me in my wheelchair through the rows of metal bars. The only two things in common of this dream and my reality is the pain that’s always there and the happiness we shared that week. 
I smiled as I closed my eyes, realizing that even though the pain will always be there, so will the joy and the laughter Andres and I share be. And that is worth everything in the world to me. 
Hubby and I at our hotel, Disney’s Port Orleans Resort French Quarter


—Based on true events—



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