And not long ago, I got an email from a woman named Amber who was interested in telling her story through my RA Friends segment. I opened up her filled out Q&A, read the first few lines and stopped. In shock, I smiled and called Mitch over, to tell him that I just received an email from a woman with arthritis living on Oahu! This was just days after Mitch accepted his new job.
I sent an excited response to Amber and couldn't believe how lucky I was to have met someone who also lives on the island and has RA. Then I got reading more about her and realized how inspiring she is. Someone who manages their arthritis with diet only. She is so lucky to be able to do that, I know many of us wish we could be the same. She points out that everyone is different but a raw vegan diet has helped her be pain free, which is awesome. So congratulations to her for that! She's also incredibly active which I admire. And on top of all that, she has kindly offered her help during this tough transition period of moving to a new area I know very little about. Can you say amazing?
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii (yeah baby!)
How long have you had arthritis? Looking back I have had symptoms for 15-17 years. I always thought they were sports injuries. I was diagnosed about 2 years ago.
What treatments are you on now/have been on in the past?
I did one round of prednisone about 1 year ago. Although it did help with my pain I couldn't sleep and started clenching my jaw which created clicking and jaw pain. I also felt very anxious. If I can avoid ever doing that I again I will. Other than that I am handling my arthritis with lifestyle and diet. I have a really hard time believing that suppressing my immune system is what my body needs. Instead I support it with healthy nutrient rich foods, a happy life and knowledge. (ed. note: It's fantastic that Amber can do this! Not everyone can, though, so I highly recommend you talk with your doc -or a few docs- before changing your treatment. I do highly recommend you take a chance to see how diet affects your pain levels, as changing diet can significantly help with pain management.)
Have you noticed any changes with food? If so, how have you changed your diet?
I have noticed that food greatly effects my arthritis. Through IgG blood tests, food elimination and an anti-inflammatory diet I live an almost pain free life with NO medication. If I eat a food that I react to I get the swelling and pain back within 1 hour to two days.
I cut all sugar except natural occurring sugars in fruits and veggies. All dairy and anything fried. I could go on and on about the foods I avoid but when I do that people always ask me,"What can you eat?" You might be wondering that yourself. I can eat so many great foods. All dishes from scratch so that I know exactly what is in them. All whole foods. I eat Fish or Chicken Breast 2 to 3 times a week. Other than that I eat mostly an organic raw vegan diet.
Dang girl! I think I can safely say we all wish we were like you!
It has helped me so much with controlling my pain. There are things in the raw vegan diet that I have to avoid. I have had such great success controlling my pain. I strongly believe that my arthritis is a temporary imbalance within my mind, body and soul. Giving myself what I need emotionally, mentally and nutritionally is bringing me back to health. I think everyone with RA has different puzzle pieces that only we can put together for ourselves. It is hard work and it is not in anyway convenient but in my life the alternatives are not roads I am willing to explore.
What keeps you positive on your worst days?
I have a very supportive group of friends and family. Since the birth of my son I have had more reason than ever to smile and more importantly, to be around and to be present. He is the driving force in my heart that keeps me positive. When I would think of not being able to physically skip down the beach holding his hand or teach him how to play sports, I decided that, not being a part of those things, was NOT an option.
What are your favorite hobbies? Have they changed since you were diagnosed?
My favorite hobbies are volleyball, jet skiing and snowboarding. They did change for a short while. There was a period of about 1 year that I physically found it very painful just standing up or washing my hair. Since changing my diet I have been able to bump a volleyball around and I just went jet skiing (stand up thank you very much) again 2 days ago. We haven't been snowboarding since but I think that has more to do with living on an island in the middle of the Pacific more than my arthritis.
Have you traveled much since you were diagnosed? If so, how's traveling for you?
Yes, I travel quite a bit usually with my 2 year old. Traveling has been fine. I have to make sure I pack a bunch of food and that I am prepared with healthy snacks. The only thing is not having my kitchen to cook all of my healthy foods in. New Orleans was a tough place to find healthy organic foods in. Actually it was hard to find anything that wasn't fried in that place! LOL. I did find a Whole foods and had a kitchen in the place we stayed. My pain doesn't seem to be effected when I travel. Sitting on a plane for long periods of time you would think I'd get stiff but with a 2 year old there is not much sitting happening.
How adorable is this photo? I LOVE it!
How about work? What do you do for a living and how does your arthritis affect it?
I am a Graphic Designer. I am at a computer sitting a lot and I am constantly over using my hands. I do get some swelling in my hands but not much since changing my diet. My left knee also gets sore from sitting too long. I am looking into changing my career so that I can be on my feet moving more since that seems to make me feel even better.
Have you reached out to others with RA? Any interesting connections?
Yes I have, on forums and on facebook. I try and share my success with my diet with as many people as I can. It really has been what has changed the course of this disease for me. I have noticed that some people with RA get upset when I mention the way I treat my RA. I have even been told that I must not really have it. I do know that what I am doing might not work for all. Through communicating with others that have RA I have learned that every person's RA is different. Everyone has different puzzle pieces. Finding those puzzle pieces is harder for some than others but you are your best asset in healing yourself.
What a beautiful little family!!
How do your friends and family handle dealing with your health?
Like I said earlier I have very supportive friends and family. Some of them were weary of the way I chose to treat my RA, with out drugs but now they see me and they think, are you sure you really have RA? In the beginning when I was in full flare and couldn't walk I think they were sad, mad and some of them in denial. I think my Mom had the hardest time accepting it. I know they felt helpless since I live in Hawaii and them in California. My Dad flew out to help me and my brother, sister and Mom called everyday to lift my spirits and fill me up with love. Now that I am feeling a lot better I go and visit, they always make sure they have things on hand that I can eat and sometimes the whole family eats what I eat. My RA has impacted them in a positive way as most of them look at health in a different way. When we get together with our friends they usually make sure there is something there I can eat or they tell me to bring my own food. They are all very aware of what I have and how I am dealing with it. My friends and family constantly send me articles they find on RA and my best girlfriends let me keep a stash of foods at their houses that I can cook up when I'm there. I am so thankful to have such wonderful supportive people in my life.
Who is the number 1 person in your life that helps you the most?
I would have to say that, Pierre my fiance is the greatest support in my life. My fiance is not the most nurturing or sensitive person in the world but he lights a fire under my ass when I am feeling sorry for myself. He is there all the time to help with our son when I need to take a moment and he is a great support in a lot of ways. I can always call my Mom or my girlfriends when I need some nurturing. I think I always did the best in sports with coaches that pushed me hard. He is a pusher and pushes me right through some of my bad days. He carried me when I couldn't walk, he picked me up when I literally couldn't stand. He naturally lives in every moment. Him being in my life reminds me to really just be here in the moment and live this moment in the best way possible. It's the only way the following moments will be what I want them to be.
Share something fun about yourself!
I love to play. Either playing with my son or playing a competitive game of volleyball or racing someone down a mountain on my snowboard. I just feel free when I can let go of anything stressful and just play! Playing especially physically, places me in a moment that nothing negative or stressful can get in.
Amen to that! I love what you said about "play". I think it's so important, especially when there is so much that is needed to be taken so seriously in life, especially when you have an autoimmune disease (Or any form of health issue for that matter!). Letting go and having fun is vital!
Amber I can't wait to meet you! Thanks for chatting with us and giving us a little glimpse on how you make it work so well!
If you want to be involved in our new RA Friends segment, send me an email at email@example.com