Don’t Let RA Get in Your Way!
RA can affect almost every area of your life…from the nagging joint pain it brings, to the results of forced inactivitly – even to issues with sex and romance that chronic conditions can bring. Maureen Niswonger is one baby boomer woman determined that RA was NOT going to get in her way…
I don’t let many things get in my way. So, when I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) 12 years ago, I told myself I was not going to let it slow me down. In fact, I would say that I’ve become even more active since then.
On a trip to Antarctica in January 2009, I couldn’t resist running up to the ship’s deck as we traversed the rough seas of the Drake Passage. With 15-foot swells crashing into the ship, I stood and videoed the amazing scenery around us. The farthest thing from my mind was my RA, and that continued to be the case during the entire 13-day trip as we hiked through some harsh, icy terrain and sailed on long stretches of sea.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience – though admittedly, I’m already trying to think of options to return there for a longer venture.
My life has changed dramatically since I learned I have RA – and not the way one would typically think. Before I was diagnosed, I worked in the high-stress field of public relations. Long days and nights at the office left little time to do much of what I was passionate about.
When I first started to feel fatigue and joint pain before my diagnosis, it was easy to just assume that it was from stress, and to just ignore it. But after some time, I realized it might be something more. My doctor, who had performed a wrist surgery on me following a fall, was the first to mention that it could be RA.
I had the fortune of being treated by one of the head rheumatologists at Northwestern University, and when initial treatments of methotrexate weren’t working, he recommended I try remicade. The results were immediate. After that first treatment nine years ago, I went home and moved furniture – that’s how great I felt!
Over the years, successful treatment has enabled me to become even more active and had the opportunity to get out and explore the world. I have been able to work out and continue cycling, and even tried my hand at participating in both a biathlon and a triathlon since then. I have also been able to return to the golf course and reestablish my love of the game.
My passion for golf is now transitioning into my new career as an independent sales representative for golf apparel and equipment. Over the course of the next year, I will be visiting well over 300 golf clubs and pro shops in the Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin regions with the five golf lines that I represent. Not only am I happy to be in a career I have a passion for, but I am especially proud to support women’s golf needs and bring the sport to a new generation of girls and women.
I’m excited for this next adventure, as well as the many ones I’ll likely take on in the future. I just don’t see why RA should slow me down. And thankfully, with my determination and the right treatment, it doesn’t have to!