Jennifer Rader is from Lebanon, Illinois. She has been a Lilly employee for 7 years and currently serves as a diabetes sales representative based in Geneva, Ill. She and her husband, Jason, have two young boys.
Most people come home from their honeymoon with amazing memories, great pictures and maybe some souvenirs for their family. I came home with Rheumatoid Arthritis.
To this day I still don't know what caused that switch to flip; science has not given me an answer for that. I was a healthy 24-year-old woman one day and the next I was a very sick 24-year-old woman with Rheumatoid Arthritis.
After experiencing my first symptoms on my honeymoon in 2007 and the following weeks my pain became so severe I couldn't move for hours in the morning. The daily activities that seemed so easy before July 2007 were so far out of reach in August 2007. I was on a mission to seek out answers. Within 3 months I was diagnosed with RA. My swift diagnosis was unique, as some patients have RA for years without being diagnosed.
The early days of my disease were difficult, each day held something new; new pain, new flare ups, new things that I could no longer do. My family can attest that I have good days, bad days and really bad days. I chose early on to hide my pain from my friends because I didn't want to burden them with my problems. They would only see me on my good days. Some didn't even know I had RA. But once they found out, all of the limping, resting and sitting made sense. Just because you don't tell your friends doesn't mean you have to battle this alone. There are many support groups and websites to help you through this tough time. If you let it, the mental anguish of RA can be just as devastating as the physical pain.
I have never let this disease take my positive outlook on life. There are many things that I can't do anymore but on the other hand, there are so many things that I still can do. So I can't play sports anymore. I can't run a mile. (Heck, sometimes I can't walk a mile) And my fine motor skill dexterity is limited. But I am so thankful that I can still be there for my family. I get to watch my kids play sports, I can make them home cooked meals at night, I can go on dates with my husband, I have learned that it is okay to say “no” and stay home to rest. Bottom line, I may have RA but I don't let it control my life. I just do things differently. I am constantly on websites for patients with RA or dexterity issues to find out the latest gadget to make life easier, maybe it’s a special knife for the kitchen, a shoe horn , or a roll bag to help me at work.
Life can get very tough with RA – you need to be proactive and take back control. Do your research, talk to your doctor and take their advice. Don't feel helpless with RA; feel empowered that you can do little things everyday to accommodate your disease not give in to it.