Rheumatoid arthritis can be a miserable disease for the millions of people who suffer from it. Patients live with pain, stiffness and disability which can last for many years. As rheumatologists, we always rejoice for those who manage to overcome the inherent difficulties living with a chronic illness. Most of us would probably hang our heads and suffer the outrageous bad fortune, while a few others manage to rise above it.
A hero in rheumatology, and his face graces the cover of a standard text book of rheumatology, is the famous French painter, Pierre Auguste Renoir. Renoir, as most know, had a unique impressionistic painting style beloved around the world. His luscious paintings of his female models might suggest that the painter was some kind of Don Juan with a paintbrush. The reality is that Renoir suffered, and was crippled by rheumatoid arthritis (RA). He had to be physically carried on a chair, transferred from room to room. Paintbrushes were either pushed into his hand and fingers, or taped to the back of his hands. Renoir lived at a time when there was precious little medication to take for his pain and inflammation, other than narcotics, yet he managed to find the determination and will to overcome the enormous difficulties he suffered.
Every rheumatology practice has their own “Renoirs” and the doctors at Main Line Rheumatology are privileged to have a few. One such patient is Susan M. She is a 52-year-old nurse who has rheumatoid arthritis (RA) that required ankle fusion, and elbows that do not bend much, which is a major factor as she enjoys running as a hobby and sport. Her life has been further complicated by breast cancer. In spite of these significant physical roadblocks, Susan M. runs marathons! Not only does she run marathons, but she runs fast enough to have qualified for the Boston Marathon in April, 2019. Given the number of runners to attempt to qualify for this 26-mile race, this was no small accomplishment.
Susan M. comes to Main Line Rheumatology for infusions of the drug, rituximab, under the care of our outstanding nurse practitioner, Cheryl Wieczorek. Under Cheryl’s attentive care, Susan M. continues to do reasonably well controlling the inflammatory part of her RA. The mechanical issues, including her elbow and fused ankle, cannot be helped by any medication, but Susan M. perseveres, nonetheless. Grit and determination come from deep within her determined, athletic and competitive spirit; she is a role model for many, and a marvel to observe and experience. As her health partners and advocates, we are proud of her accomplishments. Good luck in April, Susan M.! In our estimation, you’ve already won the race.