Being a Mom with Rheumatoid Arthritis & Diabetes

At the age of nine, Molly was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes—a disease familiar to her, as it had affected the lives of her father, grandfather, and cousin already.

However, six years ago, Molly’s life radically changed with the diagnosis of another chronic illness, at the age of 32. A loving wife and mother of two with a full-time job, Molly was initially overwhelmed with fear. Unsure how her life would change on the days she couldn’t walk down the stairs, drive a car, or move her arms enough to cook dinner for her kids, the uncertainty plagued her.

A loving wife and mother of two with a full-time job, Molly was initially overwhelmed with fear.

Labor Day weekend of 2011, Molly experienced severe joint pain for the first time while on vacation with her family. There was a strange pain and stiffness in her left elbow that she was sure was something more than the effects of carrying a heavy travel bag. Molly and her husband went from urgent care, to her primary care physician, to an orthopedist just to be told to make minor changes like wearing a brace -- even when she was having trouble with basic movements as commonplace as touching her face.

On the morning Molly woke up unable to move her legs to walk through her house, she knew it was something serious. In the emergency room later that day, Molly finally got a diagnosis, now months after her initial symptoms presented. On top of her diabetes, Molly now had Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the body’s joints instead of attacking harmful bacteria or viruses.

Like many RA patients, Molly has been struggling to find the right medication to alleviate her symptoms. The journey has been rocky for Molly and her family as she moves from one medication to another and, unfortunately, she has yet to find the perfect match. Molly’s dual diagnosis of RA and diabetes complicates things even further, as it limits her eligibility for clinical trials leaving her discouraged by the process. Despite the struggles Molly has faced, she remains positive about her health and her diseases.

As a working mother of two, Molly’s joint pain and diabetes don’t stop her from being super mom. Molly emphasizes the importance of living in the moment, encouraging fellow RA moms to not feel guilty about your disease and its impact on your family, especially your children.

Molly’s positivity is essential to her health -- and have become a lifeline for thousands of other patients with RA. Molly’s patient advocacy work launched with her diagnosis of RA, which unlike her diabetes, she knew nothing about and had no support system there to help. From her captivating blog to her witty twitter, Molly’s positive messages reach thousands of patients. She is passionate about helping others get what she needed when she was diagnosed—a support community waiting with open arms.

“My overarching goal is to make sure no one feels alone, kind of like I did; that every single person knows there’s someone there at two in the morning across the world with your disease who just knows, and you don’t have to explain yourself.”

And that is exactly what she is doing. Through pain, fear, and long days, positivity prevails nonetheless.

“The first thing is to really work on not feeling guilty. I think that is huge.”

As a working mother of two, Molly’s joint pain and diabetes don’t stop her from being super mom. Molly emphasizes the importance of living in the moment, encouraging fellow RA moms to not feel guilty about your disease and its impact on your family, especially your children.

“The first thing is to really work on not feeling guilty. I think that is huge,” she said. “My kids have had to see me in pain and they’ve had to help me more than other kids, but they’re turning out to be really empathetic and really understanding people, and I think that’s a really good quality that not everyone gets.”

“At the end of the day you have to realize that you didn’t chose this diagnosis and I guaranteed you wouldn’t chose to keep it,” she says to other patients of RA. “You can’t do everything and that’s okay. Try to live one day at a time. Don’t plan away everything and go with what you can do that day, and that’s enough.”

“My kids have had to see me in pain and they’ve had to help me more than other kids, but they’re turning out to be really empathetic and really understanding people, and I think that’s a really good quality that not everyone gets.”

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Kiran is a writer and researcher who specializes in public and mental health. She is currently a student at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, earning her masters in Mental Health Counseling.