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Rheumatoid Arthritis: Chaunté Smith Shares Her Story

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Rheumatoid Arthritis related image Photo: Chaunté Smith

Six months after the birth of her first child, Chaunté Smith couldn’t get out of bed. She was in “excruciating pain.” At first she thought it was the result of being an “older mother,” having given birth at 36. In the mornings, her fingers were curled. As her knees became swollen, she began to limp.

Telling me about her experience, Smith admitted, “I ignored it for a little while, as we women do, and just got on with my life.” Now, eight years later, Smith has become part of a team working on an awareness campaign called “The Strong Woman’s Approach,” featured as part of the Reach Beyond—Everyday Solutions for Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis overview. Smith is sharing her personal experiences with the goal of giving other women courage and insights.

Rheumatoid arthritis affects 1.3 million Americans, and is two to three times more common among women. It is a chronic disease that affects the joints, primarily those in the hands, wrists, feet, shoulders, and knees. Pain is accompanied by tenderness, swelling, and redness of the joints — a warning sign that they are being attacked. Other indicators can include low-grade fevers and fatigue.

Smith, who comes out of a background in the pharmaceutical industry, intuited that something other than first time motherhood was at play. She said, “I could barely walk. I couldn’t pick up my newborn.” She connected with a rheumatologist, and in tandem they determined what her course of treatment would be. Smith knew that she wanted to have a second child, and her choice of medications was informed by that fact.

Over time, Smith learned how to adjust to her illness through a combination of medication, exercise and diet. Proper lifestyle choices are an issue that Smith is working to amplify.

Add a Comment4 Comments

Thank you for acknowledg­ing the informatio­n contained in the article (specifica­lly relating to the statement "Women can be affected by RA as early as in their 30s") was reported as given and is therefore not necessaril­y entirely accurate. In order to prevent any future issues within the realm of the autoimmune arthritis diseases (i.e., Rheumatoid Arthritis, Systemic Lupus Erythemato­sis, Ankylosing Spondyliti­s, Juvenile Arthritis, Psoriatic Arthritis, Sjogren's Syndrome, etc,) we at the Internatio­nal Autoimmune Arthritis Movement (IAAM) would like to offer our services to review any pieces featuring these diseases to ensure the verbiage and informatio­n is correct and not misleading­, and/or could not be construed as misinforma­tion by the public. We could be helpful to interpret more details and provide links to research/r­esources in the event a doctor makes a generalize­d statement, such as the one made in this article, that RA can occur "as early as in the 30's". While the doctor may not realize that his quote will remain "open-ende­d", we can expand for him, because the doctor knows that RA can begin at any age.

IAAM is committed to bringing awareness and education surroundin­g autoimmune arthritis diseases to the public eye, and we would love to be a resource for you as, together, we could truly change the world's current perception of the word "athritis" by showing each of these illnesses in their true light.

Thank you!

Tami Brown
Internatio­nal Autoimmune Arthritis Movement (www.iaamov­ement.org)

January 2, 2012 - 11:33am
EmpowHER Guest

I wanted to comment as well as the age factor. There is no age. You can get RA at 80, 40, 12, 6, etc........ and it progresses with age.

December 2, 2011 - 11:07pm
EmpowHER Guest

I think you have forgotten that RA affects thousands of children and young adults, not just women "as young as 30". The commercials already give the impression that RA is an elderly disease; we don't need articles like this assigning an age to a disease that does NOT discriminate in terms of age. You can also have RA without the Rheumatoid Factor; it's called being "seronegative."

November 29, 2011 - 1:14am
(reply to Anonymous)

Thanks for your comment. The focus of the article was one woman's story and her efforts to cope with the disease.

November 29, 2011 - 8:53am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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