After 20 years as a language arts teacher and an assistant principal, education is in Stacie’s blood. A few years ago, she never dreamed she would use her background and passion for education to teach people about rheumatoid arthritis.
“Six years ago my son was getting married,” said Stacie. “I hadn’t yet retired, and it was a very busy time between my school responsibilities and helping plan the wedding rehearsal dinner. I had been losing weight and feeling tired and just thought I was doing too much. It was when I opened a box and felt excruciating pain all the way to my elbow that I knew I needed to see a doctor.”
“I had a great doctor who diagnosed me and started me on therapy right away,” said Stacie. “My family doctor and rheumatologist communicate frequently, and I feel fortunate to have such a great team behind me.”
Despite her diagnosis, in her heart, Stacie didn’t truly believe that she had RA. “I was in denial for a while. I rationalized that my symptoms were a result of getting older. With RA, I envisioned that I would develop deformed hands and end up in a wheelchair. I just couldn’t fathom my retirement plans going down the drain like that.”
It wasn’t until 18 months after being diagnosed that Stacie had her first Vectra test. “It was a true game-changer for me,” she said. “It forced me to come to terms with my RA and gave me hope that we could find the appropriate medication. It was from that point that I became less depressed and afraid.”
Stacie and her doctor eventually found the right medication, and she’s been able to do many more things since then. “My life started turning around once we worked through getting the right medication,” she said. “Before, my husband had to help even with shampooing my hair.”
Stacie is #RedefiningRA by deciding to live very fully. She retired a little earlier than she planned so that she could begin living those retirement dreams. She loves to travel and takes a trip by herself every month, seeing different states. She’s looking forward to even bigger trips with her husband when he retires in a couple of years.
“RA can be tough because it’s hard to make plans. You really need your family and friends to understand that,” she said. “At the same time, you discover you’re so much stronger than you ever thought that you were.”
In addition to traveling, Stacie has begun tutoring English Language Learners, is starting an RA support group through her rheumatologist’s office, has gotten involved with the local Arthritis Foundation and recently joined the Crescendo Bioscience Patient Ambassador Team. She’s also taken up water aerobics and spends time walking and riding bikes. She encourages other RA patients, “Never give up hope. Adjust to a new norm, then go back and enjoy life.”
How are you #RedefiningRA by channeling your passions?