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Photographs of her in her youth show her to have been a vibrant, strong, straight lady with gentle eyes. When it came to my turn to care for her, her eyes had not altered but her body had been ravaged by the destructive disease that is Rheumatoid Arthritis -RA. Whereas previously she stood about 5ft 4 in the "old language", now she was a shriveled 4ft 10 in her stocking feet: stockinged because there was no way she could put shoes on her swollen deformed feet with her withered fingers. She had already had shoulder replacements, elbow replacements, hips, knees and several finger joints replaced: and she had a God sent smile that went right to your heart.
This woman suffered enormously and yet she continued to paint with her crippled hands and still produce works of deep significance. I am honoured that she gave me some which hang with pride in our home.
I thought about her today when I read that over 40% of US RA sufferers were inactive and that over 50% were not motivated to exercise either, and I remembered the canvasses that she had painted even though she had had the majority of the joints in her painting arm replaced!
There are about 1.3 million people in the US and over 400,000 in Australia who have been diagnosed with RA. 30 years ago Doctors did prescribe bed rest and medications for RA, but not now. And I don't mean people with RA should be running marathons; what they should be doing is talking to their Specialists and liaising with their Physical Therapist to work out a physical activity program that is tailored for them to help maintain good joint function, even whilst taking their disease modifying medications.
Each of us is a work of art: despite what we may be suffering from, lets make it a "collectors item"!