My RA Story

This is a story that I’ve been wanting to post for quite some time.  In so many ways, it connects to my Shakeology® story.

For many years, I was a fitness fanatic, especially after the birth of my second child in 1984.  I was a “stay-at-home” mom of two toddlers, and two days a week, I would join my other mom friends at an exercise class held in our church gym in Shreveport.  This was the 80s – the days of leotards, leggings, leg warmers, headbands, Jane Fonda workouts, and aerobics. Nancy Greer, our instructor, was all I ever wanted to be twenty years later:  fit, cute, and bubbly.  Her class was challenging, but I loved the joy of moving to the music; my children loved playing with their friends in the church nursery; and I lost my “baby weight” and more!  On the days when we didn’t have class, I’d exercise with my Jane Fonda VHS at home, take walks with my children and/or husband, and chase children around the house.  When I became pregnant with my third child, I continued to exercise until the 7th month of my pregnancy when I could no longer bend over and do most of the exercises, and I changed my routine to daily speed walking until she arrived – a month early but a healthy 6 pound, 15 ounce baby!

Soon after Molly’s birth (baby #3), we moved from Shreveport, Louisiana, to Germantown, Tennessee, because of my husband’s new job.  It was difficult to find an exercise class as challenging as Nancy’s.  I finally found one and continued to workout at home as well as run in my neighborhood.

When Molly began the 4th grade, I returned to teaching English at Briarcrest Christian High School in Memphis.  God simply placed that position in my path because I began as a long-term substitute, on the Friday BEFORE school began on Monday, and finished the remainder of the year, continuing to teach there for seven years!  When I returned to the classroom at age 37, I was still active in a fitness routine.  Often, I was running three to five miles a day; sometimes I used my VHS tapes; and I would join in an exercise class on Saturdays or Sundays when we weren’t running the kids from ball games/practices or dance lessons.

My children – Matt, Meg, and Molly – joined me at Briarcrest, and I began sponsoring the Varsity Cheer squad, later moving to be the Pom squad sponsor, since that group cheered at basketball games and my son played basketball.  I would run with the Pom squad, so physically, I was great! However, something happened to my immune system in February 2000, the year my son was a high school senior (I was 42).  I had not been feeling “quite right” for about a year, but I couldn’t explain why.  My gynecologist and gastroenterologist had both done numerous tests which showed an overproduction of cortisone but no one could explain why.  Within two weeks, my body swelled, and I broke out in hives (that lasted several months) and gained 20 pounds!

I had always remained 115 to 120 pounds, but suddenly, I found 145 pounds on my 5 foot, 2 inch frame!  My face was also swollen as if I had been taking steroids.  I was sent to an endocrinologist who couldn’t explain anything.  In my stubbornness, I began to actively work to lose the weight by going to our church gym everyday – running on the elevated track and/or working out on the eliptical.  I was able to drop the 20 pounds, but my feet began to hurt.  I found a Morton’s Neuroma between two toes on my right foot. I had a student at that time whose father was an orthopedic surgeon, so over the Thanksgiving holiday of 2001, he removed the neuroma.  When I returned for my follow-up visit, he revealed that he had found something interesting about that neuroma.  Attached to the Morton’s Neuroma was a Rheumatoidal Nodule.  He didn’t know my back story of the testing by my other doctors.

We were scheduled to move to Dallas in May 2002, due to my husband’s job.  I scheduled a visit with my gynocologist so I could obtain all my records for future doctors.  (I had a difficult time with a surgery at age 33, so I wanted to carry as much information as possible with me to pass along to new physicians.)  I told my gynocologist about the orthopedic findings, and he personally took the film and records from that surgerty to a rheumatologist who confirmed – yes, I had rheumatoid arthritis.  Since we were moving, the timing was such that the Memphis rheumatologist said to wait until we were settled in Dallas and begin working with a rheumatologist there.

It wasn’t until May 2003 that my knees began to ache, damage to my toes appeared, and I began medicine that finally put my RA into “remission.”  I’ve learned much about RA and endured almost every medication available in the past 13 years.  It would take another 1,000 word post to explain all of that!