I have lived with Rheumatoid Arthritis for 44 years now. I was born in Vientiane, Laos, but grew up in the U.S. and have lived in California for most of my life. I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA, the terminology is now known as Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis according to the Arthritis Foundation) at the young age of 3 years old when my family was still living in Laos, but the medical doctors in our Southeast Asia country did not treat many children with rheumatic disorders since the autoimmune disease was uncommon among young children back in the 1970’s. At that time, treatments were minimal and my parents watched me go through phases of agonizing pain and stiffness, constant inflammation of the joints, bouts of high fever, rheumatic rashes, and fatigue. When my family first arrived to the U.S., our American sponsor family saw that there was something wrong with my physical health as I was thin and appeared to be smaller than my chronological age. Our sponsor immediately connected us to health care services and I underwent numerous exams and treatments for the JRA. My parents were then told that the JRA is of the polyarticular and systemic type, meaning that the disease affected multiple joints and internal organs. They also learned that my condition would be debilitating, chronic, and progressive in nature as it quickly affected my entire body and joints. During my youth, I received conventional and holistic treatments for my JRA that involved both modern medicine and cultural herbal remedies such as herbal concoctions that I had to drink or apply topically, acupuncture, and cupping. My parents did everything and tried anything that was possible to help stabilize the progression of the disease process. I had my first bilateral hip replacements at the age of 17 years old. By the time I was 21 years old, I had bilateral knee replacements and 6 other joint surgeries by age 22 years old. As I got older, my physical body image changed as the severity of the JRA caused multiple joint damages leading to permanent deformities. Now in my almost late 40’s, I continue to struggle with the effects of the
Rheumatoid Arthritis and a secondary diagnosis of Osteoarthritis.
Despite adversity, I have always been an active individual who believes that “life is what you make of it.” During my 20’s, I stayed focused and motivated so that I could accomplish life’s goals and aspirations. I attended college and obtained three college degrees. I received an M.S. degree in Rehabilitation Counseling and a B.A. degree in Social Work from CSU, Fresno. I also received an Associate’s degree from Fresno City College. After college, I pursued a career in the human services field and have worked with the disabilities population for 17+ years. Unfortunately, I had to leave the working environment and medically retired in 2016 due to health issues triggered by flare-ups of the disease.
Life is never dull living with arthritis, no matter what type one has. It’s unpredictable and each day is unique. I may have plans and schedules to follow, but when chronic pain takes over the day, it’s difficult to do anything and all activities are set aside while I rest and take care of the pain. Pain is also a main factor for my irregular sleep pattern because it’s hard to have a restful night’s sleep for more than 5-6 hours per night. I am thankful for discovering alternative natural solutions like doTERRA essential oils and supplements to help with my daily wellness needs in addition to all the prescribed medications that I take. Since life is precious and short, always try to stay positive despite any negativity that is thrown at us. The mind is powerful. What we think about, we bring about!