Strange, I barely remember the pain now, but eight years ago, I was a mess. I went from an energetic, 20-something, new mom to a barely able to walk, couldn’t hold a phone, couldn’t tie my shoes, couldn’t turn the shower on myself, had no energy, totally exhausted invalid. My life flashed before my eyes every day during those dark days of despair–so much undone and so much I should have done.

I learned about a year into my rapid progression of symptoms that I most likely suffered from Rheumatoid Arthritis. RA affects 90% women, typically in the prime of life (20-40) and the severity of symptoms and triggers vary from victim to victim. You notice that I said “most likely”? Well, see there isn’t much in the way of a definitive test for RA but I presented with enough symptoms, so my doctor deemed it was very likely that I had RA.

My first rheumatologist was a cautious guy. He poked, prodded,  he was methodical and thorough, but I hated him all the same. I stuck with him for about a year, hoping he would come up with some miracle eventually (I’ve watched House do it!). But in the end, his total lack of empathy motivated me to find a new doctor.

I was lucky enough to know someone else who had suffered from RA for years (not lucky for her) and she referred me to her doctor. He was as cautious as the first doctor, but with a distinct difference: he listened to me. How refreshing!

Once I knew I was in charge of my own treatment and my new doctor was my guide, I started to recover quickly. I read a lot about RA, of course, and considered a lot of “alternative therapies” from bee stings to becoming a vegetarian. But I had an inkling that my disease was compounded by stress and I decided to take the necessary steps to reduce it.

One, I got that new doctor. Love you, Simon! (although, I still never want to see you again)

Two, I started taking Bikram Yoga classes. It was brutal at first: 100+ degrees for an hour and a half. I was spending more time lying on the ground than yoga for the first few weeks, but after I stuck with it, it became my ticket to feeling good again.

Three, I started on one of the cool, relatively new biological drugs for RA, Enbrel.

Four, I got a new job. Not as dramatic as it sounds. I was lucky enough to work at a large university (BU) and simply changed departments. But, I was no longer a manager and I had less politics to play. I was my own island and it was bliss.

Five, I negotiated working from home one day a week. Virtually unheard of at BU, but I made my case and won.

Six, I left work at work.

Seven, I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore. I still take criticism to heart, but I don’t let it weigh on me like it once did.

Eight, I don’t take little things for granted anymore. This is a hard one to keep up, believe it or not. When I wasn’t feeling well, I would give anything to go dancing with my husband one more time. When you feel well, you start to let these things slide. I do everything I can to make sure I don’t.

Eight years later…

I’m happy to report I’ve been symptom-free for years now. My friends and family probably don’t even realize that I suffered as much as I did and realize even less what I did to conquer it. I would love to hear if there are similar stories out there. My doctor declared me his first cure ever, so I’d like some confirmation that I am indeed that special. Cheers!