Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, affects about 1 percent of people worldwide, including over 1.3 million people in the United States. Living with RA can bring with it a host of challenges, including pain and discomfort. No matter what we’re going through, we all have a person, mantra, activity, or product that helps us cope with the day to day.
We asked you: When you have RA, what’s the one thing you can’t live without?
“While I can't imagine life without my family and their daily support of encouragement and physical help, it is my border collie who reminds me on my worst days that I still need to move. She runs to me when I cry, beats me to the bed when I say, ‘let's nap,’ slows down when I am struggling, and makes me laugh when I least expect it.”
“The one thing I cannot live without when it comes to my RA is my pain medication. It helps me be able to get up in the morning, make myself a cup of coffee, and even make it to the gym. My medication helps me not be confined to my bed. It helps me have good hygiene by being able to climb into the shower. It also helps me be able to attend my mental health appointments. With so much hype about medication, we forget how much people with diseases like RA rely on this medication to function daily. It's a domino effect. The better we feel, the better we can take care of ourselves physically and mentally.”
"Unfortunately, one thing I can't live without is steroid medication, shots, and pills, since I can't even move without them. What I'd like to say, though, is my daughter Kathryne has been the one person who cares to know every detail of my suffering. Having someone to share that burden with makes the biggest difference in my life."
“I need my meds and my mom, to be able to keep playing the sports I love. But the one thing I could not go without is my mom and her constant encouragement to keep going!"
Graci Diggs is 12 years old and living with JRA, and an Arthritis Foundation Advocate.
“What do I absolutely need to live with RA? Tough question, mainly because there are so many things that I can’t get through the day without, but if I have to choose one thing above all else, it’s resolve. You can have pills, devices, family, and more at your fingertips, but if you don’t have the fortitude and desire to get up and get going, none of that matters, and surviving the tough times without resolve is nearly impossible.”
“Sleep! I've learned the hard way that not making sure I sleep well every night directly contributes to how I'm able to manage my disease every day. Life is much harder when I don't sleep well. Sleeping well for me means limiting my sugar intake (to include alcohol) after 3pm, and adhering to strict bedtime routines; I put down the devices and books at least an hour before bedtime, and incorporate some of the techniques I've learned from yoga to relax myself to be able to fall asleep quickly and sleep well.”
“One thing (well, two) I cannot live without is my dogs. Their unconditional love is the best emotional support imaginable. They don't judge, they just love. They listen when you need to talk, and never disagree. My older dog has been with me since 2009 and has been through many flares with me. If I am feeling good, he's happy to play, go for walks — anything I can handle. On a bad day, he's content to just sit and chill with me and go at my pace. When it's really bad, he won't leave my side. There have been multiday flares where I can't get out of bed and my husband has had to come pick him up and carry him outside to relieve himself because he won't leave me of his own volition. We got a puppy back in August who is heading in the same direction. They truly are angels on four legs. I know it's not for everyone, but they keep me going.”
“I could not live without my husband, my family, and my five pets! They all keep me going even through the difficult times. Product-wise, I rely heavily on my essential oils and my variety of herbal teas and topical treatments for pain relief. I'm a big fan of massage and acupuncture, too. But outside of my loved ones and pets, perhaps my biggest necessity for coping with RA pain is my vast and varied collection of heating pads in all colors, shapes, and sizes! I have an electric heating pad as well as several microwaveable heating pads. They are an absolute must for me!”
And from our Living with RA Facebook community
“The support and kindness of my family and friends. It's overwhelming at times. When I struggle in any way, I know I have help coming at me from every direction. I know that living with RA makes us very proud, but it's important to ask for help when you need it. There's always someone out there willing to help.” — Lauren M.
“My blankie.” — Roslyn M.
“First thing I can't live without is God. The second is having my dog Shortty around, he insists that I go outside even when I don't feel like it. He somehow knows that fresh air is exactly what I need. The third thing is having friends and family who love and understand me even when I'm not feeling good. I have a close friend who totally understands my sense of humor which helps me laugh off the pain!” — Debbie S.
“My electric blanket and my bed.” — Rosina K.
“Wax warmer for my hands and wrists!” — Laurie F.
“For me it's the love of my husband, kids, and especially my grandkids. If I'm feeling down, they lift my spirit. I forget all about that pain and depression.” — Rosemary P.