Hi friend! My name is Rachel, and I am the seventeen-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I was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis a few months after developing symptoms at age 11, but this diagnosis was revoked when my rheumatologist could not observe swelling in my joints the morning I returned to the hospital for scheduled intra-articular corticosteroid injections.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."
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 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 a first-year college student, volunteering, going to church, and hanging out with my friends. I am completing a double undergraduate degree in public health and history at Tulane University. I enjoy tutoring, writing a cappella arrangements, keeping up with this blog, sending cards in the mail, and drinking smoothies.
My favorite things include cats, 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-year vegan and a 10-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, but 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, feel free to comment or reach out to me privately (firstname.lastname@example.org). I can't wait to get to know you - thank you for visiting my blog!