One aspect of living with a chronic disease like RA that often gets little attention is the notion of anticipation. What I mean by that is the very real prospect of being able to anticipate different realities in the course of this disease. I have often referred to the very chaotic nature of RA as being one of, if not the most challenging issue to handle. The very nature of this disease from flares to medication effects to treatment results is one of unpredictability and often trial and error. That said, it would seem that anticipation would be a very unlikely possibility with RA. I have discovered otherwise. In fact, anticipation can be a very useful strategy to combat the chaos of RA!
Here is how. I am known for being a bit of an obsessive planner both at work and personally. I work ahead, I insist on scheduling appointments as far in advance as possible, etc. I cannot tell you how many times this has paid off but suffice it to say it is noteworthy to say the least. When I reflect on the way it has impacted the course of my RA and my management of the disease it becomes a critical tool that I cannot imagine doing without!
For example, I can anticipate the fact that the holidays are going to be hectic, tiring, fun and frantic. So I have learned to do as much as I can in advance and, equally as important, spreading the tasks over time so that I don’t overdo it and launch a flare!
Another example is anticipating what needs to happen for insurance purposes. I knew when I was switching to yet another medication that our insurance would likely deny it before they approved it. So rather than get all worked up and agitated I worked with my physician and his staff to prepare the next steps for re-authorization and by doing that I felt proactive and in control. That alone was so worth it.
Another example is related to our medications. I know that certain medications have certain effects, not all of them good. In anticipation of that fact, I try to read up on how to counter those side effects or choose an entirely different medication if possible. Another case of anticipation is the knowledge that sooner or later I will have to move on to another medication to treat RA. The fact is most of us will. Whether we build a tolerance or it simply stops working there is high likelihood that sooner or later we will have to make a change. So, in anticipation of that, I am always paying attention to the latest medications and treatment protocols in the pipeline. I read about every aspect of them from efficacy to potential side effects to when they will be available to use. I often chat with my rheumatologist about them during a visit to get his take. Then when the time comes, I already have some ideas about what might I prefer and what makes sense for me. AND do this while you are feeling good, NOT when you are in pain, suffering from fatigue and brain fog. Making those decisions then means they are not being made with the clear head and wisdom you need to make the best choices.
Anticipating how to cope with weather changes is big one if you live in a state with lots of seasons like I do here in Vermont. My joints like the cold, hate the heat and humidity. So in the summer I need AC or a pool to be comfortable. In the winter the biggest issue is dealing with icy and snowy surfaces. I wear boots with Yaktrax grippers so I don’t slip and in anticipation of bad weather I carry a set in my car so I am not caught off guard. I also make sure to have ice melt products on hand to cope with ice.
As you can see just by these few examples anticipation can really be our friend and should be utilized as often as possible. In that way, we are yet again, enhancing our ability to manage RA.