Living with RA? Be your own advocate

Rheumatoid arthritis health activist Therese Humphrey

By: Therese Humphrey

Therese was diagnosed with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 26. She is now a health advocate with a mission to educate and inspire other people living with RA.

The patient advocates featured in this section share their experiences of living with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis. Please note that these stories are not meant to represent patient experiences with any specific treatment. They may or may not be taking an Amgen product to manage their moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a complex, chronic disease. There are tons of myths and misconceptions causing many people who are diagnosed with RA added stress and confusion.

It is important for you to get the facts and learn all you can about RA, so that you can understand and be aware of the options that allow you to manage and live the best you can with this disease.

There are many myths and misconceptions out there, from “It’s an old person’s disease” to drinking cherry juice and eating certain foods to cure RA. The biggest myth that I hear that irritates me the most is that rheumatoid arthritis is “just arthritis.” What we think of as “regular arthritis” is the condition, osteoarthritis, which is caused by injury or normal wear and tear on an aging joint causing inflammation. Rheumatoid arthritis is more than a swollen, inflamed joint. It is a chronic, progressive, autoimmune disease. It not only affects multiple joints but can also affect the entire body, causing systemic symptoms, such as severe to mild fatigue.

I feel the most important person in your RA care and treatment is you. Find out as much as you can, and be an advocate for yourself. When you hear or read advice on treatments, don’t take it as fact. Educate yourself. Most importantly, ask a specialist (hopefully your own rheumatologist, whom you know and trust), who will answer all your questions with factual information. Always remember: ask questions about anything you do not understand.

It is not easy to be an advocate for ourselves, but we need to be well informed so that we as patients can make objective decisions in our own treatment plan, thus improving the outcome of our disease.

Knowledge is power. It will help you feel confident and safe in the decisions that you choose for yourself, making life with RA better because of it.