Autoimmune Disease Awareness – My Autoimmune Journey

March is Autoimmune Disease Awareness Month and I wanted to share my story with you.

I am living with Rheumatoid arthritis, though many would not know.  I was finally diagnosed in 2003 but It took many doctors and about 4 years to get my diagnosis. 

After years of suffering from painful stiff joints and days of not being able to function, I finally demanded a referral to see a rheumatologist after finding out that my rheumatoid factor (one of the tests used to diagnose RA) was, in the words of the doctor, just a little high.  I found out that it was 275 and that normal was less than 15.  I kept fighting and searching and finally found a Rheumatologist that listened to me and my concerns. He talked with me and gave me a ton of information about the disease and the available treatments and agreed to let me decide where I started with my treatment.  I began taking Hydroxychloroquin or Plaquenil (a repurposed malaria drug) in 2003 because it is one of the oldest treatments (more than 50 years old) for RA and we know pretty much all of the side effects to expect. 

I didn’t want to take the first line of treatment recommended by the insurance and pharmaceutical companies (Methotrexate) because it is a repurposed chemo therapy drug and also because my mother died from organ failure due to a methotrexate side effect. Then in 2010, I began on the Paleo lifestyle journey and I finally started feeling like myself again. 

Many of you may not know that my mother, sisters, and daughter also suffer from some form of Autoimmune disease, and in 2002 I lost my mother to complications of Scleroderma and her treatments. She had many autoimmune diseases as do many others. And we did not know then what we know now.  

My job now is to advocate for and educate myself and those like myself who suffer from Autoimmune disease first and then to help the ones around us to know and understand just what Autoimmune disease is, and what to expect if a friend or loved one is afflicted and how to live and interact with someone who has Autoimmune disease.  I am 63 now and I have spent the last 15 years of my life doing what I love, making great-tasting foods and baked goods for those like myself who eat a restricted diet due to illness. I enjoy talking with people and helping them to understand how wonderful it can be living with an Autoimmune disease. 

Let us know your autoimmune disease story!

Below I have furnished some facts about Autoimmune disease and a reference that you can use to find out more and keep up to date on new information about Autoimmune diseases.

Facts About Autoimmune Disease

An autoimmune disease is a condition in which the immune system mistakenly attacks and damages healthy body tissue and cells, rather than protecting the body as it was designed to do. The exact cause of autoimmune diseases is not fully understood, but they are thought to result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Approximately 50 million Americans are living with autoimmune disease. There are more than 100 known autoimmune diseases.

80% of people living with autoimmune disease are female.

Autoimmune disease tends to cluster in families. If one person in your family has an autoimmune disease, it’s likely that someone else does, too — although they might not have the same disease.

On average, it takes 4.5 years and 4 physicians to receive a diagnosis.

Autoimmunity is now one of the most common disease categories, ahead of cancer and heart disease.

25% of people living with autoimmune disease have multiple diagnoses, and certain diseases tend to cluster with others.

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