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Like many RA patients, there is often a gap between how I feel and what my lab results or other tests actually show. This is compounded by the fact that I am R factor negative, meaning that a standard test for diagnosing RA comes back normal (even though I’ve lost three major joints to the disease). Therefore, whenever I get physical evidence about a condition that correlates to what I feel, it feels like a victory.

I recently made the difficult decision to leave the workforce. I’m still struggling a bit on whether to describe myself as “retired” or, as I left largely to deal with my health, as “disabled”. I’m not much of one for labels of any kind so I’m ignoring the discussion at the moment. I’ll figure it out later when it becomes important to things like disability claims.

One of the things we all know is that stress is not only an issue unto itself, it generally magnifies other issues you may have. For someone with RA, it can trigger flares and increase fatigue. I wear a Fitbit HR which, among other things, tracks my heart rate which is a pretty clear indicator of stress.

In the picture to the right, the recorded resting heart rate of 101 bpm (which is extremely high by any Heart ratestandard) was my final Friday at work when I was scrambling with my team to get a major project out the door. This high heart rate is a direct reflection of the amount of stress that I was under leading up to my “retirement”. (You can see the upward slope leading to that final day.) Since that time my resting heart rate has dropped steadily. Yes, it’s still high. However, the dramatic decline headed back to more normal levels once I eliminated the stress of work from my life is amazing. To me, this is just visual proof that I made the right decision.

My immediate focus is to get my health back into reasonable limits. I am working on my weight, my heart rate and stress levels. All these things will positively impact not only my RA, but also my blood pressure and cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Being more physically fit will increase the overall quality of my life.

I wish there were Fitbit monitors for other aspects of my life that would automatically track the pain in joints, the number of times my fingers are swollen, or other indicators that my RA is active. Someday there very well be. Until that time, I’ll use the tools I have to help track my progress and celebrate victories like this one.

Wishing you victories both large and small in your life today. Thanks for checking in.