"It was a sudden, scary wake-up call, but made me realise I had to commit to managing my health"
I had just welcomed my first child in 2015 at age 27, when I began waking up each morning with aching hands and found myself struggling to even bend my fingers. Being a new mum, I thought it might have been due to hormones from my pregnancy and didn’t initially think much of it.
The pain persisted, eventually leading me to see my GP who placed me on a 26-month waiting list to see a rheumatologist publicly. I opted into care with a private specialist, which while expensive, was a priority for me to get answers – and the answer was, I have rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
I was at a loss in terms of knowing anything about the condition and believed that arthritis only affected elderly people, so I tried to learn as much as I could about RA and the treatment options. But prioritising your own health can be challenging for anyone, especially when you’re a busy mum.
When my husband and I decided to try for a second baby, dealing with my RA fell to the bottom of my to-do list. This all changed when I ended up in hospital from a burst artery in my neck and found out that I had
been at risk of a stroke. It was a sudden, scary wake-up call, but made me realise I had to commit to managing my health and make sure I was finding time to put myself first, including my chronic condition.
I explored every avenue I could find after this, looking for different solutions I thought could help relieve my RA. I experimented with diets, cut out sugar and carbs for six months, drank more water, and woke up in the early hours of the morning to go walking. When none of these lifestyle changes seemed to work, I admitted to myself that I was just adding to the stress of my already chaotic schedule and making myself exhausted.
For me, the best option has been seeing my specialist regularly to discuss my RA management and treatment options, and tackling my RA under their guidance. Often with my toddler in tow!
For other mums who might be going through a similar journey with their health, my advice is to ensure you are prioritising taking care of yourself. Lean on your support networks, don’t be scared to ask for help when you need it, and book in your appointments. I find that a visual reminder helps for me – if it’s on my physical calendar, I’m less likely to cancel.
I’m able to manage my condition well with the right care, but there are still days when I suffer from the pain and fatigue. Knowing my limits, doing what I can, and carving out time to put myself and my health first are critical.
Different management options will work for different people, and that’s why it’s important we each take the time to figure out which course of action suits us and our families best.
Danielle is an Australian ambassador for Advantage Hers, a global campaign launched in partnership with Caroline Wozniacki - 2018 Australian Open winner who was diagnosed with RA in the same year- and biopharmaceutical company UCB.
The campaign was launched to address the need for improving the standard of care for women living with chronic inflammatory diseases, such as: rheumatoid arthritis, axial spondyloarthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and psoriasis, which is vital because of the unique challenges and gender disparities that women with these conditions can face.
Click here to learn more about Advantage Hers and access a range of resources and content