About Me

      Hi friend! My name is Rachel, and I am the eighteen-year-old author of "Rachel + Rheum" (spoken "Rachel Plus Rheum"), which is a little blog in the corner of cyberspace 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I was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis a few months after developing symptoms at age 11, but this diagnosis was revoked when my rheumatologist could not observe swelling in my joints the morning I returned to the hospital for scheduled intra-articular corticosteroid injections.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 the 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. That pediatric rheumatologist treated me for a long time, but I eventually became frustrated with the amount of pain I was in as well as the slow pace of treatment and extensive wait in between appointments. Thanks to a reference from a family friend, I currently see an excellent rheumatologist in the private practice sector.

      I have tried a variety of treatments to reduce the severity of my arthritis, including NSAIDS, methotrexate injections, Enbrel injections, corticosteroid injections, muscle relaxers, heating and cooling devices, Biofreeze and similar products, 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 weekly Orencia 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 twice, and I am hoping to go again this summer. Connecting with other people living with chronic illnesses is extremely important to me.

      Besides learning to live with my autoimmune disease, I am busy being getting ready to start my second year of college, volunteering, going to church, and hanging out with my friends. I spent my freshman year at Tulane University, but am transferring to UNC Chapel Hill for the next three years as a result of severe medical difficulties I experienced in New Orleans. If you look down and to your left, you'll find that the featured post is about that decision and process. I enjoy tutoring, writing a cappella arrangements, making spreadsheets, keeping up with this blog, playing the piano, sending cards in the mail, and making aesthetically-pleasing smoothie bowls.

     My favorite things include conversing with my pets, hot raspberry tea, and watching Grey's Anatomy episodes on Netflix. I am sort of Baptist and sort of Episcopal, and this mash-up is working for me at the moment so I think I am going to stick with it. I love theology, and I am hoping to become a hospital chaplain after earning a Masters of Divinity one day. I am constantly waiting for Christmas and I am one of those jumpy, easily frightened people that everyone knows not to sneak up behind.

     I am a 2.5-year vegan and an 11-year vegetarian; eating at the bottom of the food chain is something I have become passionate about. I have been called a "bleeding heart," and that's 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 think this is the most authentic way to live and write, and I share this 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!


I love receiving your comments and do my best to respond to them in a timely manner! If you would like to share something more personal, you are welcome to email me at rksauls@live.unc.edu.