“I Owe My Success to Rheumatoid Arthritis”

Singer-songwriter Rain Perry busted every RA myth out there to prove the disease can’t keep you down.

Gina Roberts-Grey
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Myth No. 3: Most people with RA end up disabled or in a wheelchair.
Fact:  Swedish researchers who did a long-term follow-up study of 183 RA patients reported that 94%—i.e., 172 of them—could still perform all their normal activities independently after 10 years with the disease, as published in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases. And nearly half the group had either very little or only mild disability.

Sometimes Rain gets down because she’s unable to strum her guitar or do things other women her age can do, like go jogging. But her family keeps her honest. “My husband and family are wonderful. They help—but just enough. They won’t let me use RA as an excuse to not do something I really can do, like go to dinner, enjoy a movie, take a drive and so on. They won’t allow me to have a pity party for myself. They’re great at focusing on all the things I can do to remind me of all the wonderful things in my life.”

Myth No. 4: Because of stiff, painful joints, people with RA need to take it slow and rest most of the day.
Fact: Although rest is sometimes necessary, most people with RA will benefit by keeping active and trying to do their regular daily activities.

Just because swooshing down the slopes is tough for Rain doesn’t mean she skips out on family ski trips. “When my husband and kids go skiing, I recharge my batteries with a snowshoeing excursion. I do similar—yet different—things that are part of what everyone else might be doing. I’m there physically, even if it’s just to watch, so I’m part of the fun.” And if she’s not her best on certain days, “I let my family or friends know what’s going on, so they can understand I might be moving a little slower or feeling a bit sore.”

Myth No. 5: It’s too hard to raise a family if you have RA.
With proper treatment and the right attitude, folks with RA can still enjoy a happy home life.

Because Rain was diagnosed years before having her two daughters, RA was already a part of her everyday life when she became a mom. But even though she was used to having RA, she wasn’t prepared for the feelings of inadequacy that come from not always being “super mom.”

“It was tough, and I went through a few years of depression because I couldn’t always do things like play soccer or run around on field trips like other moms,” she says. Realizing that her husband, Bill, and daughters, Sarah and Stella, think she’s perfect just the way she is helped Rain snap out of it. “Instead of thinking I wish I could be like so-and-so or judging myself by another mom’s abilities, I threw myself into things I could do, like reading with them when they were little. Or being the loudest cheerleader instead of the one running up and down the sidelines.” 

April 2013