Today I'm introducing you to Cathy, who surprisingly seems so similar to me. When I met Cathy she'd been commenting on my posts, supplying me with delicious banana bread recipes, support and encouragement. Then I started getting to know her and realized that we have a lot of things in common: paleo diet, time off from medicine, going back on Enbrel, being totally awesome.
I love what she has to say about diet, keeping active and staying positive. It sounds like she has an amazing family that anyone would be lucky to be apart of.
. . . Can I come hang out with your fam? They seem awesome.
Cathy has her own blog at http://thelifeandadventuresofcatepoo.blogspot.com. if you want to see what she has to say! But first . . .
Name: Cathy Kramer
Age (Or age-range): 43
Location (general area is fine): Naperville, Il
How long have you had arthritis? January 2004
What treatments are you on now/have been on in the past? I was put on Prednisone, Methotrexate and Plaquenil when I was first diagnosed. After this mixture only brought me further into inflammation, I started seeing a naturopath who looked at any and all reasons for the inflammation. She also started me on an elimination diet.
My naturopath's help over the years has been tremendous. Each month I would go back thinking it was time to add back foods, but it wasn't until she saw improvement in my inflammation that we added back foods. My body needed almost a year without these foods before it was strong enough to realize what they were doing to my body. Permanently removing gluten and dairy helped put me in remission the first time.
In 2008, I chose to go off all medications. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to handle the inflammation without the medications. In 2010, I started Enbrel and Methotrexate as well as started eating a paleo diet. Diet and meds seem to be the best combination for me. This last year has been an amazing year for me!
Have you noticed any changes with food? Oh yes. Gluten and dairy are definite “no-no's” for me. I can feel the inflammation within 24 hours of eating either one. Now that I have eliminated grains, I can feel their effects with my stomach issues as well as joint inflammation. I went from following a mostly gluten/dairy free and low sugar diet for over six years to following a paleo diet. Eliminating grains helped reduce cravings for sweet foods and gluten foods which is important for me because sugar in any form plays a big part in how I feel. This was the biggest surprise of going on an elimination diet. When I added sugar back, I could strongly feel the effects. Unfortunately, I occasionally just don't care and give in to the wonderful tastes of sugar. A girl can't always resist the sweet tooth.
(Um, yes Cathy, I agree with that last statement!)
What keeps you positive on your worst days? Visualizing myself on my best days doing the things I love to do: bike riding with my family, walking with my border collie, running up and down the stairs with a laundry basket, sliding in and out of the car with ease. Visualizing where I want to be and where I have been always reminds me that it is still there to come back to. Hope is always there and something to strive for.
What are your favorite hobbies? Bike riding, walks/hikes with my border collie Izzy, communicating with others online, homeschooling, adult education, reading, health, alternative choices to life.
Have they changed since you were diagnosed? Although some of my hobbies have been put on hold for a while due to RA, they haven't changed. In fact, many have become more of an interest to me. I think having RA has helped bring out the “alternative” side of me. I am not willing to settle for the “norm” in any part of my life. I follow the paths that work best for my family and me and ignore all the others, even if they go against the mainstream.
Lookin' good Cathy!
Have you traveled much since you were diagnosed? I am not a big traveler. If so, how's traveling for you? When we have traveled I seem to do okay. I don't know if it is the excitement of being somewhere different that gives me that extra boost of energy, but generally trips are good for me. Also, my husband and two kids always keep a watchful eye out for me which helps a lot.
How about work? What do you do for a living and how does your arthritis affect it? I teach adult English as a Second Language. I love my job. During a flare it can be a challenge due to lifting my arm frequently and having to be on my feet a lot. Since I work with adults, they watch out for me and if I look like I am in pain, they are up and helping me with whatever I need. I have had nights where I had to lift my arm up to the board with my other arm because my shoulder was frozen and had to take a deep breath to hold back the tears (well, a few times they didn't stay in and I had to keep writing so my students wouldn't see the tears.) During my worst flares, I did consider the fact that a day may come when I would have to stop working. Luckily for me, my new combo is working well and that day seems to be further in the future now.
What a handsome couple!
Have you reached out to others with RA? Any interesting connections? Through my blog, http://
thelifeandadventuresofcatepoo. blogspot.com/ I have met wonderful people that have become close cyber friends over the years. They have seen me through some rough days. I have enjoyed not only sharing the ups and down of disease with these friends, but also other aspects of their lives. As an introvert, online connections have been great for me! It is like a little support group in the comfort of my own home.
I am also a contributor at MyRACentral http://www.healthcentral.com/
profiles/c/311516 where I can share my RA stories with others. I love receiving feedback from both sources. .
How do your friends and family handle dealing with your health? My family is super supportive. My husband continues to love me as if rheumatoid arthritis never entered our lives. I can still see in his eyes that he finds me beautiful and that means so much to me.
My 15 year old son is my “protector”. He keeps a watchful eye out for me. He goes grocery shopping with me so he can grab the bags and put them in the car, he picks up our lunch bags before I can even think about it, and he is there to give me a gentle hug as needed. I think a lot of people haven't realized the full scale of my RA because Alexander makes sure I am taken care of and don't have to be obvious about what I can't do.
Sophia, my 13 year old is my “positive thinker”. On my worst days she has me think about my best days. She encourages me to always think about myself being well. She lies with me and shares her life with me when I need her most.
My extended family has been wonderful in preparing meals for me that are gluten/dairy free when I visit Kansas. They choose restaurants that have foods I can eat when they visit Illinois. Most importantly, they support my alternative choices in caring for my body. They realize that I know my body best and if I am choosing to go down a certain path, it must be right for me even if they would have made different choices themselves.
Who is the number 1 person in your life that helps you the most?
I can't say there is one person because there are definitely three. My husband, my son, and my daughter are my support team. Without them I could never have made it this far with my diagnosis. They fill me with love and support that it greater than anything I could have ever imagined.
How cute is this family? Don't they just look like they'd be a fun group?
Share something fun about yourself!
Early in my 20's I went to watch my younger sister sky dive. When I got there and saw her getting buckled up for a tandem dive, I couldn't resist. I signed myself up to do it too. I called my husband so he could watch me. He ended up doing it too. I think this is what I like about my personality. I wouldn't have gone out searching for a sky diving experience, but when the experience presented itself, I wasn't afraid to take it. Rheumatoid arthritis has been that way for me too. I obviously didn't go out searching for it, but now that it has presented itself, I am not afraid to take it on and explore all potential paths I can follow. Everything has its good; it is just a matter of looking for it. In many ways rheumatoid arthritis has brought me to a good place in life and I am thankful for these experiences.
Talk about motivating! Thanks for sharing with us Cathy. I love reading your blog. See you around the comments section!
If you want to be involved in our new RA Friends segment, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org