Eileen Davidson, ambassador for the Arthritis Society and Patient Advisory Board Member of Arthritis Research Canada, shares her journey as a single mother living with several musculoskeletal conditions.

Mediaplanet: What symptoms led to your initial diagnoses of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), osteoarthritis (OA), and fibromyalgia?

Eileen Davidson: I was originally misdiagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome and a sore back because of my young age, weight, and profession as an esthetician. But unrelenting chronic pain, fatigue, and emotional disturbances debilitated me. I felt something else was wrong so I requested an RA blood test, and that was the start of my self-advocacy.

MP: What lifestyle changes have you made to accommodate your diagnoses?

ED: I ditched alcohol, gave medicinal cannabis a try, and bought a gym pass at my local rec centre because it has a sauna and pool. I focused on consuming more leafy greens, water and healthy fats, and lowered my sugar and processed food intake. 

MP: How do you cope with your symptoms?

ED: Finding support is crucial. Seeking help isn't shameful, whether it be for physical or mental health. I force myself to rest when my mind says to keep going. Self-care and pain management are the keys to dealing with arthritis.

MP: How do you help others understand your disease(s)?

ED: Honest, open communication and humour go a long way. Becoming a patient advocate and ambassador for The Arthritis Society has helped as I am able to teach others what it is like to live with an invisible disability like autoimmune arthritis through imagery and social media.

MP: What’s something you want to share with Canadians about RA, OA, and fibromyalgia?

ED: Not all disabilities are visible; just because you’re young or you can't see it doesn't mean it isn't severe or not there. No one is too young for arthritis. With over 100 types and 360 joints in the body, every case differs. Arthritis is more than pain and fatigue.

Check out Eileen’s blog here.