My name is Debbie McGrady. I am a 55-year-old mother of two and part-time bank teller; an active, healthy, driven woman living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
My first experience with RA was actually not my own – my mother was diagnosed with the disease at age 40. When my knees began to swell and I started having trouble with my feet, I sought podiatrists and rheumatologists, who ran numerous tests before they were able to diagnose me. The most difficult part of those early days with RA was not being able to enjoy what I love doing most – going to the gym and working out, because those activities can strain muscles and joints.
When I was diagnosed I immediately decided I would not let my disease hold me back from enjoying life. My journey with RA has had its ups and downs, but thankfully I found the right medicine and can proudly report that I am in remission and pain free. I can now work out five days a week, and enjoy hiking with my husband; I completed a mini-marathon for my 50th birthday.
One thing I started to do since my diagnosis is volunteer, driving seniors to doctor’s appointments, to the drugstore and on errands. I’ve found volunteering to be rewarding and fun. I also became involved with Hand in Hand for RA (www.handinhandforRA.com), speaking out to encourage RA patients to get out there, and get involved. Medical studies found that people who volunteer remain active, live longer and have lower rates of depression than those who don't volunteer. In part sponsored by CreakyJoints, an online community for people with arthritis, HandinHandforRA.com found that 40 percent of RA patients would like to give back to their communities. At the site, volunteering women can post profiles about their RA journey, and you can get ideas on how to become active in your community.
I may not be the norm. I have a happy, outgoing attitude; I am so determined. After seeing what my mom went through, the pain, swelling and fatigue, which can be crippling, I am not going to let this disease take my life. I admit my RA can occasionally get me down, but I push back.
I hope that other women with RA get involved, get active, and tell the world that RA will not stop us, we will not give up. And never forget that being active and helping others, helps us!