Will I die from my rheumatoid arthritis? Well, it isn't a fun topic to discuss but one I am ready to face. In the articles that I found, most cited a lifespan reduction of anywhere from 5-15 years. With life expectancy in the USA currently at 78.24 years, that puts us at about 73.24-63.24 years. However, positive responses to treatment may indicate a better prognosis along with other factors such as overall health and the absence of other comorbid conditions. It is interesting to note that the risk of cardiovascular death in patients with RA continues to be 60% higher than in the general population. The most frustrating part of the studies for me was there have been no significant improvements in these statistics for quite some time. Even with all of the advances in new treatments and medications, these numbers are staying the same. We must keep searching for a cure!
So there it is in a nutshell and I am surprisingly OK with it. 60 or 70 years is a great life! Let's face it, not one of us really knows how long we have to live anyway. Each day is a gift. I used to have an extreme fear of dying early and leaving my young children and husband behind. However, after experiencing my latest flare up this past year I began to see death as the reward at the end of the fight...no more pain! My thoughts all came together for me one day during a series of doctors appointments. I began my day with my DEXA bone scan appointment, followed by my regular rheumatology appointment, followed by my eye appointment because I am on the medication Hydroxychloroquine. I spent over four hours watching elderly people hobble in and out on canes and wheelchairs, with disfigured joints and hooked up to oxygen tanks. Was this all I had to look forward too? Light bulb moment...I am in my prime and things will never get better or easier than they are today. I better be making the most of what I have right now!
I presently have a deeper fear...RA ruining my quality of life while I am still alive. As a young wife and mother with four little kids to raise, I still have lots of things I want to accomplish in this life. Death is inevitable but living is something I still somewhat have control over. Yes, there will be surprises along the way, like being diagnosed with RA for example. However, I can still choose the attitude to take with me throughout this journey. Also, there are many physical things we can do to help our medications and different therapies achieve their maximum effectiveness in our bodies. For my next posts I want to look into topics such as cardiovascular disease, liver failure, managing stress, exercise, diet, massage therapy, yoga/meditation, etc. I have noticed that my lowest points have come when I have simply been waiting around hoping that my medications would kick in. If I stay busy trying new ideas with diet, exercise, cleansing, meditation, etc, I do much better physically and mentally. It puts me back in the captains seat where I feel like I still have control.