Chris Ridabock Jr. lives with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). It means that many daily activities most of us take for granted are severely compromised simple pleasures like walking and playing ball with our kids.
“Remission” is a relative term for Chris. With drug therapy, there are periods when his mobility improves. He is able to walk. However, he still wakes up with “crushing morning stiffness” and suffers chronic fatigue from “being in pain 24/7.” Even on a good day, Chris describes his pain level as a 3/10 and when he experiences flares that cause acute episodes of pain, that number skyrockets to 10/10. Living with chronic pain is a horrendous burden, so even though arthritis is not a fatal disease, the physical and emotional toll on individuals like Chris is enormous.
When you have a sensitivity to different types of drugs used to treat arthritis, life becomes even more of a struggle. Chris has tried numerous drug treatments to manage his symptoms. One drug left him vomiting for days. Steroids make him swell up. He becomes nauseous when he eats certain foods as a side effect of the drugs. Even when he takes biologics that help stabilize his condition, his immune system is so weak that he has been hospitalized as a result of a slight bout of flu.
In his youth, Chris played a lot of sports and suffered injuries that may have been related to undiagnosed arthritis. His first official diagnosis came in 2009 when he began to experience flares following surgery for an Achilles tendon that snapped suddenly when he was teaching taekwondo for kids. These days, he is thankful to be mobile again, but he has to be extra careful about how he plays with his own children. Even a simple game of catch could have serious consequences. “If something goes wrong,” he says, “it could lead to a flare.”
For now, Chris tries to accept that the trade-offs he makes in order to stay mobile are worth it, but he dreams of a day when there will be “less toxic” ways for him to deal with his arthritis. Knowing the Arthritis Society is prioritizing arthritis research is important and gives hope even on a bad day. Investing in cutting-edge research is critical; it is the only way to accelerate the discovery of new treatments that will significantly improve the quality of life of people living with RA.