Monday, October 24, 2016

Stopping Rheumatoid Arthritis before It Starts

I used to think that all the emphasis on raising money for a cure for rheumatoid arthritis was a waste of time. This disease was incurable. All the research in the world couldn't help.

Boy, was I wrong! I now firmly believe that we will see a cure in my lifetime. 

In my new post for RAHealthCentral, I look at the new studies that are exploring how to stop RA before it starts. Doesn't that just blow your mind?

"Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could stop rheumatoid arthritis (RA) before it develops, before it starts wreaking havoc in our bodies?

Does that sound like science fiction or a fairy tale? It isn’t. It’s getting closer to becoming a reality.

A bit of background

Five years ago, I listened to Edward C. Keystone, M.D., F.R.C.P(C) one of the foremost rheumatologists in Canada, talk about how the anti-CCP blood test was leading us toward a bright new future. Because the anti-CCP test can detect RA up to 15 years before it starts, he said it was leading to a rheumatologist being able to identify individuals at the pre-clinical stage of RA. That is, before symptoms begin. This is exciting because it can lead to a future in which RA can be stopped before it affects the systems in your body.

Although I was delighted to hear this, I have to admit that I thought this was very far into the future. But only five years later, it’s starting to become reality."

Several new exciting studies are investigating how to stop rheumatoid arthritis before it starts. Read all about it in my new article for HealthCentral.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Tips to Stop Pretending and Live Authentically with Chronic Illness

Once a year for Halloween, we dress up and pretend to be someone else. But when you live with a chronic illness, the pretending happens every day, as we tried to act like everything's better than it is. And it can really mess with your life. This week on RAHealthCentral, I wrote about this pretending and share tips on what you can do to live authentically with chronic illness:

"Pretending to be someone you’re not is not just for Halloween when you have a chronic illness. It’s something we do every day, trying to put a better face on life and how we’re really feeling. We do it because of the stigma of chronic illness. We do it because a bit of daily denial can be a coping mechanism, allowing us to get through the day. And we do it because we want our lives to be about something other than just being sick.

The problem with pretending is that it can take over our lives. There is a fine line between putting on a smile so you can get through the day without explaining your chronic illness to every person you meet and denying your truth, even to yourself.

I did that — made a lifestyle of pretending that I was fine with a capital F. I minimized the amount pain I was in, pretended I didn’t need as much help as I actually did, and pushed myself to do as much as possible on my own, often ending up in a world of hurt because of it. Basically, I spent a lot of time trying to persuade others that despite the visible deformities and using a wheelchair, I was perfectly healthy and able-bodied.

In retrospect, that was probably a lost cause.


Read the full post with tips to stop pretending with chronic illness on HealthCentral. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Book Review: The Iron Druid Chronicles

Atticus O’Sullivan lives a mostly quiet life in Tempe, Arizona with Oberon, his Irish wolfhound. He runs an occult bookshop, hangs out with his friends, and his biggest problem is a cranky neighbour.

Well, and that he’s been hiding from Aenghus Óg, the Celtic god of love for well over a thousand years and that his closest friends are a werewolf and a vampire. Perhaps I forgot to mention that Atticus is a druid and 2000 years old, give or take a few years?

Oh, and that although the books take place in our world, there is also another very richly developed, as well as very hidden, world filled with supernatural beings, such as several pantheons of gods, some werewolf packs, and a lively vampire community.

But there is only one druid. All the rest are gone, most of them killed during Roman times during an extermination of sacred groves and druids masterminded by the vampires and executed by the Romans.

And that’s just the background story and the beginning of Hounded, the first book in The Iron Druid Chronicles, a series written by Kevin Hearne. So far, there are eight books with several novellas and an upcoming ninth book. I just discovered that that will be the last in the series and I’m very sad about it.

Atticus, Oberon, and their friends (and enemies) have kept me company throughout this summer of healing. I’ve read every one of the books currently available, alternating with tomes by other authors to cleanse my palate in between adventures.

Each book continues more or less where the previous one left off, although each is also a stand-alone story. The stories are wonderful, building nicely to a satisfying conclusion, even when that conclusion is pretty harrowing. Because that’s one of the best parts of these stories. Contrary to so many other series, there is real peril here for recurring characters. Not everyone gets out alive.

Characterization is also really good. Hearne has clearly spent a lot of time thinking about what being immortal and living for 2000 years would do to a person. Atticus is remarkably normal in many ways — he works hard at it — yet has an element of a lack of regard for consequences. Which would be natural after having lived that long. His actions gets him and his friends and allies into situations that don’t always end well. And that’s another great thing about the series. Consequences do happen and Atticus has to face them.

That might make the books sound very serious, but they aren’t. They have a wonderfully light tone, depicts some terrific adventures, with serious elements. And they are also very funny. One of my favourite characters is Oberon, Atticus’ wolfhound. Fully realized with the ability to speak with Atticus on the mental plane, Oberon is very, very funny.

No review of The Iron Druid Chronicles would be complete without spending some time gushing about the narrator, Luke Daniels. He is the perfect narrator for this series and over the course of the books he develops a superb level of comfort with the different characters. Each have a unique voice and tone that makes it easy to identify who is speaking. His Oberon voice is especially inspired and completely hilarious. I’m going to look out for more books narrated by this man. He is a brilliant narrator.

I think these books would be as enjoyable if you’re reading them in print format, but do yourself a favour and get the audiobooks. They are a perfect blend of excellent storytelling and a fantastic narration working together to create something more than the sum of their parts.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Restricting Biologics for RA

We live in an amazing time when there are more treatments for rheumatoid arthritis than ever before. Biologics have had a profound impact on the lives of people with RA and on the field of rheumatology. These drugs are expensive, though, and it can be an obstacle to treatment. Another obstacle is developing. My new post for RAHealthCentral discusses the news that pharmacy benefit managers are attempting to restrict access to these drugs:

"There are ten Biologics currently available to treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA). That does not mean you have access to all of them. 

Insurance companies are famous for the obstacles they place in the way of our access to expensive drugs. For instance, they often use fail-first policies. This means that a number of less expensive medications have to be tried with unsatisfactory results before they will approve a Biologic. We live in an era when rheumatologists treat RA early and aggressively to maximize the chances of remission. But this type of policy leaves us at risk for developing damage while we try medications that may not be what our doctors believe is the best option.

But it’s about to get worse."

Read the rest of the post on how access to RA treatments is being restricted.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Photo Friday: Blessed Are the Animals

Every year on the first Saturday in October, there is a special service at St. James Cathedral in Toronto. it's the Blessing of the Animals and it is all sorts of lovely. 


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Voting and Chronic Illness

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that there is an election coming in the US. We all have opinions about it, but that is not what my new post for HealthCentral is about. It's about the obstacles that people with chronic illness may face during the election process and what you can do to make sure your voice is heard:

"One month from now, one of the most beautiful things about democracy in action will happen. All over the nation, citizens will go to the polls and cast their vote. This will decide the next president of the United States, as well as a number of state and local government officials.

As a person with a chronic illness, you have some unique challenges as you prepare to cast your vote. Your chronic illness may be unpredictable or limit your mobility. This can affect your ability to attend town halls and other election campaign events, as well as voting on Election Day. A chronic illness may also affect how you vote."

Read the rest of the post on voting with a chronic illness