You hear it all the time: You never get a second chance to make a first impression. For Jeremy, a sales professional, that first impression means everything. Every day, every business pitch, every conversation requires him to be his best self; but for Jeremy, who is living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA)—a chronic autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the tissues of the joints, causing inflammation, pain, and eventually joint damage and disability—staying upbeat to ensure a good first impression isn’t always easy.
Even the seemingly simple act of a handshake became challenging. “As a salesman, I’m constantly introducing myself to new people,” Jeremy said. “Having a strong handshake is an integral part of making a first impression—but after a while, it became hard to smile through the pain when every time I shook someone’s hand, it was excruciating.”
After noticing pain and a bend in his pinky finger, Jeremy spent two and a half years visiting doctors, participating in physical therapy, medical testing, and even underwent surgery to eventually learn he had RA.
“After receiving negative results from my initial RA blood test, my physician encouraged me to seek further testing given the nature of my symptoms. My advice to people experiencing symptoms is to be persistent with their healthcare provider. This disease is manageable, but it’s all about making sure you address your symptoms in the right way by working closely with your healthcare team.”
While Jeremy values his successful career, nothing brings him as much joy as being a father. Balancing a busy career with children can be taxing, especially when combatting symptoms of RA, which comes with its own set of challenges, such as fatigue, swelling, and joint pain.
“When my wife became pregnant with our first child, she was on bed rest. Balancing my increased responsibilities at home, while also managing my RA was difficult. By the time my first child was born, I was so weak I was scared to carry my daughter down the steps.” Jeremy’s RA symptoms continued to get worse and, knowing he did not want to live that way, he made the decision to try to take control of his condition by focusing on a healthy lifestyle. His primary goal was to find a way to better manage his RA, allowing him be the type of father he always aspired to be.
“I started to be more mindful about what I was putting in my body and became more active in a healthy way. Eventually I went from struggling to walk up and down the stairs to running regularly every week.”
Today, in close partnership with his healthcare team, Jeremy maintains an active lifestyle and feels rewarded by his ability to enjoy life’s simple pleasures, such as playing with his children and coaching their sports teams. Jeremy explains that, while coping with his RA hasn’t been easy, his positive attitude and determination to keep going allows him to push through the pain and fight this disease.
“My biggest accomplishment is being strong for my children—I want to be their superman. They inspire me to wake up every day and live my life in the most fulfilling way possible.”