About Me

      Hi friend! My name is Rachel, and I am the nineteen-year-old author of "Rachel + Rheum" (spoken "Rachel Plus Rheum"), which is a little blog about living with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

      My medical journey has been quite complicated. I was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis a few months after developing symptoms at age 11, but this diagnosis was revoked when my rheumatologist could not observe swelling in my joints the morning I returned to the hospital for scheduled intra-articular corticosteroid injections. I was misdiagnosed with a chronic pain syndrome my initial doctors called "arthralgia." After the long process of scheduling an appointment with the pediatric rheumatologist at another hospital, I was officially diagnosed with polyarticular juvenile rheumatoid arthritis after diagnostic ultrasounds on my elbows, knees, and ankles.

      I have tried a variety of treatments to reduce the severity of my arthritis, including NSAIDS, methotrexate injections, Enbrel, Orencia, and Humira injections, corticosteroid injections, muscle relaxers, heating and cooling devices, Biofreeze and similar products, hot patches, lidocaine, muscle relaxants, physical and occupational therapy, water therapy, psychology, and biofeedback. Many of these things have helped, but not cured, the intense pain associated with RA. Unfortunately, I have yet to go into remission, but I am determined to get there one day. For now, I'm getting by primarily with leflunomide and Humira injections.

      I am involved with several local Arthritis Foundation events, and I am also an Arthritis Ambassador. I have attended the National Juvenile Arthritis Conference three times, and I am hoping to go again this summer. Connecting with other people living with chronic illnesses is important to me.

      Besides learning to live with my autoimmune disease, I am busy being a college sophomore, volunteering, going to church, and hanging out with my friends. I spent my freshman year at Tulane University, but transferred to UNC Chapel Hill as a result of severe medical difficulties I experienced in New Orleans. I enjoy tutoring elementary and middle schoolers, participating in long conversations, spending time with friends, arranging a cappella music, writing essays, making excessively detailed spreadsheets, keeping up with this blog, playing the piano, sending cards in the mail, and making aesthetically-pleasing smoothie bowls.

     My favorite movies are The Sound of Music and The Devil Wears Prada, and I am forever in love with Lorde's album Melodrama and Beyoncé's album and film Lemonade. I love theology, nuns, and cathedrals, and I am hoping to go to divinity school one day. I am an English major and am concentrating my studies in the field of health humanities. I am constantly awaiting Christmas and my favorite season is summer.

     I am a 3-year vegan and an 11-year vegetarian; eating at the bottom of the food chain is something I am passionate about and always trying to promote. I have been called a "bleeding heart," and that is a label I embrace, because I think a lot of what is lacking from the world is empathy.
 Sometimes this blog is a place of joy, and sometimes despair finds a home in my posts. I hope this is the most authentic way to live and write, and I share a range of experiences with the goal of reminding other chronically ill patients that you are not alone as you struggle to navigate what it means to live in a beautiful world with a broken body. There is a lot of laughter here and there are also a lot of tears. It is my hope that you will stick around for both.

     If you have any questions about me, about rheumatoid arthritis, or about my blog, or if you are just seeking some support, feel free to comment or reach out to me privately (rksauls@live.unc.edu). I can't wait to get to know you - thank you for visiting my blog!


  1. Cold climate?!?!?! With arthritis?!?!?!?!

  2. I know, I know. Everyone has been trying to convince me to move somewhere dry and warm for years! Maybe I will? The college decision process is still going on so lots of options!


Comments for this blog are turned off. If you would like to contact me, you are more than welcome to email me at rksauls@live.unc.edu or connect through my social media, which you can find on the left side of this blog.