Women kayaking

Live Your Life to the Fullest!

Today’s treatments can help keep rheumatoid arthritis in check — so you can spend more time doing what you love.

No matter what your dreams are, you can pursue them despite rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Just ask Lisa M., a St. Louis-based teacher who’s been living with the disease for more than eight years. There was a time when Lisa, who teaches art to elementary school students, could barely hold a paint brush because of severe joint pain.

“My hands hurt so bad I was in tears. I couldn’t even mix colors and had to ask my coworker for help,” recalls Lisa. “And I started having pain in my feet and ankles, but thought it was just bad shoes—I tried a dozen pairs in 10 months!”

For Lisa, the last straw came when RA threatened to take away her active lifestyle—especially kayaking, which she had discovered a couple years before her joint pain started. “My best friend turned me on to it when she invited me on a day trip with her kayaking club. I fell in love immediately,” notes Lisa. So when severe back and foot pain forced her to cancel a kayaking excursion, Lisa vowed to take control. Today, she feels better than ever and is pursuing her dream: to kayak the entire length of the Missouri river.

The reason for her turnaround? Perseverance. Lisa was committed to leading a healthy lifestyle and, most important, trying various therapies recommended by her rheumatologist. Eventually, they found a regimen that worked. “The right treatment gave me my life back,” says Lisa. “Overcoming RA is all about a positive attitude and a good relationship with your doctor,” she says. “He’s been with me every step of the way. He really listens to me and understands my lifestyle and what my goals are.”

If your RA is not well controlled, you may wonder if you’ll ever feel as hopeful as Lisa. Yet it is not out of reach, says Elinor Mody, MD, a rheumatologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “We can put RA into remission, or as close to it as possible, if it’s caught and treated early,” she says. “And if you’ve had it a long time, we now have better ways of controlling the disease.”