Nellia: The best reason to fight arthritis

I am a mother! After living with my better half for 10 years, suffering a number of miscarriages, going through surgery to deal with endometriosis and being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, I am finally a mom!

The last three years have been nothing but challenging and obstacles still stand before me but the birth of my daughter has pushed me to examine my priorities and given me the energy to fight this disease.

I have always been very active and ambitious. I completed both my bachelor’s and master’s degree and pursued graduate studies in public administration. I even envisioned a career in politics and became a television producer by chance.  

My symptoms began well before my diagnosis. I felt quite fatigued and blamed it on my crazy work schedule. However, back in autumn of 2016, I started getting inflammation in my hands and wrists. My doctor ordered some blood work and referred me to a specialist. After a month of stressful phone calls, I finally found a rheumatologist who was looking for new patients. I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in May 2017.

I was 36 years old, filled with both personal and professional ambitions, and the diagnosis came to me as a shock. It felt like my life and my whole world were falling apart.

We had wanted a child for quite some time. I had undergone surgery for my endometriosis the previous year and we were finally ready. We were told to wait six months after the surgery before attempting to conceive but not any longer, as endometriosis is a chronic condition. Finally, after waiting just the right amount of time, I became pregnant.

To control my arthritis, I took Plaquenil, a medication that is safe to take during pregnancy. There are many personal decisions to be made when pregnant and diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, especially in terms of medication and breastfeeding. I could have stopped treatment. However I wanted to be as healthy as possible.  

I read a lot about the disease. The Arthritis Society website helped me quite a bit by providing information on medication and the various types of arthritis, as well as testimonials and the latest news on research that give cause for hope.

During my first trimester, I had three flare-ups but the disease seemed to calm down after that. I was so happy! However, at the beginning of my third trimester there was a problem with the development of the fetus and labour had to be induced. Fortunately, this went very well and little Nellia entered our lives!

Six weeks after the birth, my arthritis came back in full force. This time, I was treated with both cortisone and Plaquenil which helped quite a bit. However, six months later I was experiencing whole new symptoms: persistent back pain, heel pain and extreme fatigue. During a follow-up appointment, my rheumatologist diagnosed me with ankylosing spondylitis. This was in May 2019. It felt like getting hit with a hammer a second time. A new drug was added to my treatment plan. For the last three months, things haven’t been too bad but I still have pain and we are trying to adjust my dosage.  

I am lucky to have a good baby and a great support system: both my parents and my partner have been very present through it all. Nevertheless, it is hard and we have had some rough patches. I am not what I once was. My body hurts, I am very tired and impatient. We have sacrificed down time and quality time as a couple to get more hours of sleep in. Our intimacy has suffered, but we stay strong and I try to see it as a bump in the road.

My career has always been very important to me. This disease helped me realize that I was letting my work define me. I was taking very little time for myself, had few hobbies and worked with my partner who is a filmmaker, so our life as a couple was intertwined with our professional life. Since the diagnosis, we have embraced important family moments as we surround ourselves with those we love. We don’t focus on the disease as much now that Nellia is around. My goal is to provide the best possible life for my daughter so that she can flourish. She gives me a reason to fight.

- Lisa-Marie Lampron, Montreal 
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