I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis on my daughter’s sixth birthday. At the time, I was 37. After years of pain and worsening unexplained symptoms, I felt relieved to finally have answers. But that relief quickly changed to concern. As a physiotherapist, I was confident about treatment options and getting my disease under control. Yet, I underestimated the impact arthritis would have on my life.

On my worst days, my family has to help me get dressed and complete all household tasks.

I’m thankful to have such understanding kids. They are 14 and 15 now and I often feel like I’ve robbed them of a carefree childhood because they’ve had to do so much for me.

Arthritis has also changed my marriage. I sometimes feel that my husband didn’t sign up for all of this, but he is my biggest supporter. We printed our vows and hung them on a wall in our bedroom. When I feel this way, he encourages me to read them to remind me that he did sign up for this.

“I didn’t want to live like this, so I searched for answers and found Arthritis Research Canada.”

– Lisa Harris

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Before my diagnosis, much of my social life was tied to exercise. I was very active – going to the gym, running, snowboarding. Now, I have to plan and prepare for those kinds of activities. Arthritis was negatively impacting my life. I would work, come home, sleep – and repeat. I eventually had to stop working because I was in so much pain.
Dr. Jasmin Ma and her team were looking for people to participate in a study about strength training. As a former physio and someone living with arthritis, I decided to get involved.
I felt frustrated in my new body and knew this research could benefit people with different types of arthritis – others who felt like their work, social, and family lives were slipping away.

I want others who are experiencing the same to know that Arthritis Research Canada is working to find answers and give people their lives back.

The study, called I START, stands for “Improving Strength Training and Tailoring Among People with Rheumatoid Arthritis.” Researchers worked with patients and health and exercise professionals to identify barriers to strength training and develop toolkits to guide people through this type of exercise. Arthritis affects everything, not just joints, and living with it is hard. Research is necessary to find answers for people like me – so that we can continue to work, exercise, and be present with our families. Today, I live with rheumatoid arthritis, I’ve lost range of motion in multiple joints, and have osteoarthritis in my lumbar spine. However, thanks to participating in the I START project, I know resources exist, and research is constantly being done to find answers.

Strength training has been found to reduce pain and improve quality of life. Looking back, I wonder if regular strength training specific to my rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis would have changed my experience.

Thank you for helping to fund vital arthritis research. After my diagnosis, I felt like arthritis kept taking parts of my life away –being active, work, goals and career aspirations, mental health, and the ability to be the mom and spouse I aspired to be.

Arthritis Research Canada is changing what it looks like to live with arthritis. Please help Arthritis Research Canada make the very most of this matching gift opportunity.

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You can help accelerate research that changes lives by making your special holiday gift today.

To download the I START Toolkit and learn more about strength training click here.

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