My Story: Ruth Devitt

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What were the steps leading up to your diagnosis?

After having a slip and fall on ice in March of 2015, I thought I was on my way to recovery when I started experiencing severe pain in my hands.

It was puzzling to my doctors and they then decided to send me to a neurologist for a nerve test. It did appear that I had carpal tunnel syndrome in both wrists and I went ahead with surgery to correct it.

After several weeks of physical therapy, I felt I was getting worse and not better. At this time, my feet and ankles were also causing pain. I couldn't stand in the shower for more than five minutes, walking my usual three miles daily was out, and I was limited to wearing expensive sneakers as the only comfortable shoe I could find.

The next step was a visit to the rheumatologist where blood work and an MRI of my feet came back negative for RA. The rheumatologist tried to politely tell me (in a very round about way) that I might be depressed and it was manifesting in pain. I begged for another MRI. She finally gave in and ordered it for the next day.

Late in the day, I got a call from the rheumatologist along with the most sincere apology and a plan for treatment. I would advise anyone with unexplained symptoms of any kind to take charge and be insistent until you find answers. Not just any answer, the one your gut tells you is correct.

First I was on methotrexate, after a few months I felt a bit better but not active and spent several days per month in bed. Next, I tried Enbrel which didn't work and then Humira which also didn't work.

After that, I then decided that I should look into ways to improve beyond taking medications. I made some changes that showed significant improvement but wasn't quite over the hump. I recently started taking Plaquenil, but it's too soon to know if it will be effective.

What lifestyle changes have you needed to make?

While waiting for a diagnosis, I was collecting Temporary Disability Insurance but I was planning on getting back to work as soon as I could. I worked as a restaurant manager and needed to be on my feet and fully functional to work.

Thankfully, my company extended my leave well beyond the usual 12 weeks and I was allowed to keep paying my health insurance. As we got closer and closer to the limit of disability insurance, I came to the hard realization that I was not going to return to work, my husband and I had to make some changes that would afford us to live on one income.

This was the most dramatic changes we had to make. We refinanced the house to get a much lower payment, cut back on anything and everything we could from cable, energy usage to groceries and fuel.

More recently, I've made changes to diet. I've eliminated sugar, grains, and dairy, and added omega 3-6-9 and a daily dose of turmeric complex to my diet. Doing this has had a better effect on me than the Enbrel and Humira. I try my best to purchase organic foods but must admit, the expense is sometimes too much. We travel to an out of state market where I can get better food choices and bargains.

Today I'm living a much quieter life. I miss working and socializing with people every day, but there is much to be said about living free from stresses that came along with the job.

Live. Laugh. Love.

What accomplishment are you proud of?

This has been quite a journey. I've learned so much more about myself and what's most important in my life. I used to define myself by the job I was doing, the stress I could handle and the ladder I was climbing. All that has changed. There was a severe period of mourning and depression that set in throughout this journey, and I've learned to address it and keep it at bay.

Therefore many positives in my life and I can be a positive force in the lives of others. I'm continuing to fight this disease with smart choices, joining in fulfilling activities, and learning to enjoy every day.

What accomplishment are you proud of?

This has been quite a journey. I've learned so much more about myself and what's most important in my life. I used to define myself by the job I was doing, the stress I could handle and the ladder I was climbing. All that has changed. There was a severe period of mourning and depression that set in throughout this journey, and I've learned to address it and keep it at bay.

Therefore many positives in my life and I can be a positive force in the lives of others. I'm continuing to fight this disease with smart choices, joining in fulfilling activities, and learning to enjoy every day.

Keep moving.

Keep moving.

Who has been there for you? How?

I can't imagine going through this alone and feel such sympathy for anyone that has to.

My husband has been my rock. He never doubted me when the doctor thought it was all in my head. He immediately responded when we had to make some financial decisions and most importantly, at the age of 60, changed jobs to earn more money.

I was always an independent woman and learning to lean on him was hard for me. He truly taught me how to do so. After working as a trucker all week, he comes home and handles the heavier household chores, takes me shopping and devotes a lot of his once free time to taking care of me.

I have great kids and a grandson that is five years old, who understands that I can no longer run and play like we used to. My Mom, Dad, and sisters are always available, and I'm lucky to have people that would be here whenever I may need.

I'm continuing to fight this disease with smart choices, joining in fulfilling activities, and learning to enjoy each and every day.

What advice would you give to someone living with RA?

My advice for anyone beginning this frightening change is not to give up or give in. This is not a death sentence. You can make positive changes that will affect your well-being. There are many ways to impact your health and manage this disease. Trust your instincts. Address your depression. Find a new passion. Join an online group or social media page. If your meds aren't working, try another. Keep moving. Ignore the doubters. Keep your life balanced. Apply for disability if you need to. Take care of yourself. See the joy in every day. LIVE, LOVE, LAUGH.

Is there anything else we should know?

I am 55 years old, a wife for 32 years, mother of two grown children and grandmother to three. I've worked in the restaurant industry for most of my life, but I'm finding a new passion in volunteering in my community. I cook weekly for homeless folks and help feed up to 150 people per week. I have two rescued dogs that keep me company and keep me warm at night.

I love to cook, sing to my grandkids and spend time by the ocean. My husband and I love to travel and have some great tips planned. Although being disabled has put many limits on my activities, I've been able to learn how to balance my life to be fulfilled in new ways.

About Ruth Devitt

My Story: Ruth Devitt

I am a 55-year-old wife, mother, and grandmother that has spent most of my life working in the restaurant industry. Besides spending time with my beautiful family, I enjoy traveling with my husband, spending days on the beach and cooking. I have two rescued dogs that keep me company and keep me warm on cold New England nights. I volunteer with an organization that helps homeless and underprivileged folks in my community. I'm learning to live with this disease and do my best to focus on the everyday joys that exist around me.

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