dealing with the chronic pain

Autoimmune diseases are often invisible.

5ef0675663ff35e54711a40e7f6edb08On the outside, you look normal and often have a smile on your face – but on the inside, you could be in excruciating pain that is relentless and frustrating. This type of chronic pain can really get to you…it can make it very difficult to stay positive, it can be exhausting to always look your best at work or in front of friends, and it can make everything (even the simplest of tasks, like brushing your hair or taking a walk) very difficult and painful.

It has been a hell of a 3 months for me as I slowly got off of the medications I was on. At first, stopping the methotrexate wasn’t so bad. I had a few mild flare ups, but they were tolerable. And the biologic medication was still in my system. But then I stopped the Remicade infusions. And after 6 weeks of detoxing it from my body, I became VERY aware that there was nothing stopping this vicious disease. Every joint – even my elbows and hips – are achey and weak. With the joint inflammation, my bursitis in my shoulder flared up, so I can barely move my arm above my head. Every stroke when I swim has been painful, but I know that exercise is the only way I won’t stiffen up. It has definitely been a difficult few weeks, but I know it will be worth it because now we can start a family. ❤

“Courage is not having the strength to go on; it is going on when you don’t have the strength.” – Theodore Roosevelt

One thing I have learned in the past few months is that having a support system is so important to help give you the strength to get up every day. It is hard to keep a smile on your face at work every day and in front of friends when you go out for lunch or coffee, but there has to be a time and a safe place that you can breakdown when you need to. There has to be someone to confide in about your uphill battle, reminding you how strong you are and how you can’t give up. My husband, my family and my very close friends have been that support for me and I am forever grateful for them in my life.


goodbye 2016

I feel terrible that I haven’t posted at all in 2016, but it has been a whirlwind of a year! 

Back in September of 2015, I was battling with unemployment and the stress and depression that comes with it. Not only did I have to deal with frequent flairs, but the paperwork and cost of COBRA to cover my medications was a nightmare. The insurance companies do not make it easy to transition between jobs and I spent countless hours on the phone to clear up medical bills and coverage. 

Fortunately, in January of 2016 I found a new job in the corporate event planning industry. It has been exciting and challenging figuring out my new role. I also started going into an office every day, which was a major adjustment. But I am so lucky that my company has been supportive of my medical needs. They allow me to work from the hospital on my infusion days. And they have supported my volunteer work at the Arthritis Foundation as well. The best part about my job is that I have been able to travel the world! It has been such a great year, but definitely busy. 
And I almost forgot the biggest thing that happened in 2016…WE GOT MARRIED!! Planning a wedding was a lot of work, but so incredibly rewarding. We were so fortunate to have all of our family and friends there to support us on such a special day. And I am incredibly lucky to have such an amazing husband by my side through it all. 

So cheers to a crazy, exciting, adventurous 2016! We are excited to see what lies ahead in the new year…

featured in women magazine

I am excited to announce that I have been featured in an article for Women magazine!

Arthritis: A Disease for All Generations By Heather Stringer

“One of the most common misconceptions is that arthritis is a disease reserved for the aging population, but it can also affect young adults and even children…” The article tells my story of being diagnosed as a young adult and the struggles and hopes that I have faced in the past 10 years. Check it out through their website!



honoree for the walk to cure arthritis

This year I will be representing the young adults who live with the chronic disease Rheumatoid Arthritis as the 2015 Walk to Cure Arthritis Adult Honoree for Colorado. I am very excited to share my story and connect with others on this journey.

honoree_1_2014_webMy story with this disease started 10 years ago, when I was hospitalized during my last year of college for severe stomach pain. After many blood tests, immunology panels and an elimination diet, the doctors vaguely diagnosed me with extreme food allergies and an infected gut. Immediately following graduation, I had to have patella realignment surgery in both knees after the doctors found a degenerative form of arthritis in my knees.

A few years later, I was pursuing a masters program in San Francisco when I started having acute pain in my wrists, ankles and spine. The doctors finally diagnosed me with Rheumatoid Arthritis at age 24.

For the past 6 years, I have gone through numerous medications and biologic infusions, trying to find the right combination to one day put this disease in remission. I went through foot surgery to correct some arthritic damage last year and my diagnosis was recently updated to Psoriatic Arthritis, which includes psoriasis of the skin in addition to rheumatoid arthritis of the joints.

In 2011, I started this blog to share my experiences and knowledge with others and to help spread awareness of this debilitating disease. I also began volunteering my graphic design and marketing skills to the Arthritis Foundation’s Walk to Cure Arthritis Committee back in 2014.

This year my pledge as the Adult Honoree for the walk will be to raise $5000 to help the Arthritis Foundation find a cure. The Walk to Cure Arthritis in Denver raises funds and spreads awareness to fight the nation’s leading cause of disability. We aren’t just helping the 50 million Americans and 300,000 children who live with arthritis pain, we’re funding research that’s getting us closer to a cure.

Please help me support the Arthritis Foundation with your donation, which will help with creating additional research programs, allow for new breakthroughs in medications, and help find a cure for arthritis.

Here is my personal donation page:

Also, if you are in the Denver metro area, please join my team on May 17th in Washington Park. Here is the registration page:

four diagnoses, four truths

I have a very special post to share today, written by my dear friend and author Abigail Widynski. She has been an inspiration for me in my life and throughout my medical journey. I am truly blessed to have her as a support. Here is her story…

Number four. It came back in the test results about two weeks ago. A forth auto-immune disease diagnosis. Sure, it wasn’t a death sentence. But I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say it ruffled my feathers or took me for a trip back down memory lane that I really didn’t want to take.


It’s a part of my story I don’t readily share. I don’t share even though my daily life is rift with what others may call adjustments and I just call…life! Maybe you can relate?

It’s the part that indeed occupied and now again occupies a great deal of time, energy and emotion. It is also the part that never really had a conclusion or tied with a sparkly, pink bow.

We all have that part, don’t we?

As I’ve had a couple weeks to process and mentally examine my health, past and present, I’ve realized that part of me doesn’t need hidden, isn’t a source of shame and can be a source of strength. Just maybe same goes for you?

I’m going to share with you the four truths I plan on taking with me on my life (and health) journey moving forward…

Denial is Not Nearly as Powerful as Truly Living

As much as I hate to admit it, I have a magnetic pull to denial when it comes to my health. Why? Because during certain periods I thought I had to push through.

Real life story: The summer prior to my moving from the United States to London for business school, I was suffering severely with abdominal pain. Through a process of illness elimination via a myriad of testing, Celiac Disease was suspected to be the culprit two weeks prior to my move. I pushed through and along with life changes, completely altering my diet. Yet, a few months forward, there was an underlying something going on and quite frankly, I was sickly.

I was running hard though and after all, I was in an accelerated business degree program. In between flying back and forth to the States for testing, giving 150% to my courses and colleagues in addition to job searching, I was mid-way through my degree was I received the treatment plan recommendation from my American immunologist: iVig treatment monthly starting immediately. I denied treatment, mentally, physically and emotionally pushing through.

And then after graduation, I couldn’t push anymore. Pushing stopped working for me. I crashed. Sound familiar?

Life had to change. Denial had to let go. And I needed to set a new pace as a gift to myself.

Whereas I used to see slowing down as a weakness, I now embrace the power in recognizing my health ebb and flow isn’t something to deny. I see the power in determining, creating and truly living the life I’ve been given.

My Life is Not Defined By My Results (Tests or Otherwise)

If you received your first diagnosis as a child, you’ll understand when I say this: Waiting comes easily.

There’s something about being a childhood patient that makes living life in ‘waiting mode’ seem normal. It took me a long time to understand that waiting isn’t passive but very much active.

It took a season of utter frustration and asking Heaven for an acronym (literally) before I understood that I can wait actively. Here’s my acronym: Willing Acceptance of Invested Time, or WAIT.

By taking ownership that I can choose how to respond to others, how to spend my time and what new opportunities I can pursue all while waiting, I realized that the results matter less than I ever thought.

It may seem counter-intuitive. But I challenge you, just try on this new thought for one day. See how it fits.

That Miracle Was Meant For Me (and Your Miracle is Meant For You)

I’ve believe in miracles, big and small, more and more.

When I was seventeen, I received a big miracle when my primary autoimmune deficiency went into remission. New horizons opened, literally. I was cleared to travel outside the country to places I read about in the books I’d devoured as a child. Just this one piece of my remission filled me with such anticipation and hope.

My fears decreased also. I wasn’t as scared to come down with an infection because they were further and fewer in between. I knew I was bouncing back quicker.

But not everyone receives a health miracle or healing. And this is where the small ones have impacted me.

In seasons where my health has been less than optimal and my energy low, I’ve been amazed at the encouragement that comes my way. One day, a tourist sat down beside me at the local coffee shop. I’m not sure how the conversation started but soon we uncovered that we’d been at the same ice rink outside of Prague. It may not sound meaningful, but looking back on that day, I needed reminded of a great memory and talk about a shared place with someone. It was a miracle that I didn’t even know I needed, a small miracle. It was meant for me.

And your miracles are meant for you!

A Setback is Really a Setup

If I learned anything in my journey back down memory lane it was that every single setback was really a set-up. Some just took longer than others for me to see the redemption!

As a child, I was in isolation at home for long stretches of time and unable to attend school regularly. A weakened-immune system meant that hospital stays presented greater risk of additional infections than properly treating the primary one.

With so much time at home for several years, I had a front row seat to a master of time management, a baking extraordinaire and a color scheme guru: my mom. At the time, I really didn’t know what I was observing and thought about all the friends I was missing.

Until fairly recently, I thought that those years at home were a set-back and I had a lot of catching up to do, a great deal of life to get to.

Now, I understand that what I thought was a setback was really a setup, my setup. Thanks to learning from the best cook and baker I know, I was invited to the Today Show as a finalist in a recipe competition! Being taught discipline to manage my own school studies and homework at home, I now absolutely love working from home, can juggle quite a few things in my day effectively and just wrote my first book!

There are so many others that I could share but I’ll leave you with this…

Number four may have just been the setback I needed for the setup I’m headed for. And that truth is for us all!


Abigail Widynski is an out-of-the-box strategist and connector who is excited by the opportunity to talk about ‘growing things’ and expansion of all shapes and sizes, organizations and people. A finance professional, Abigail is the owner of Sovereign Venture Advisors and founder of the Sovereign Venture Philanthropy Fund. Abigail holds a M.Sc. Management from Imperial College Business School in London and a B.A. in International Studies from American University in Washington, D.C. Abigail is proud of her debut book, Making Money the Millennial Way, which was widely released in the United States and Europe in January 2015.

going dairy free

For the past year, I have really been cheating with dairy in my diet. Come on people, I’m Italian, so it’s really difficult to not add parmesan to my pastas or brie to my salami and crackers. And lately, I’ve been noticing that my new medications are not mixing well with the cheese and ice-cream.

So I’ve decided to go dairy free from now on.

I was doing some research and it says that rheumatoid arthritis symptoms may flare as a response to specific proteins found in dairy products. Dr. Michet’s research says that “Some people with rheumatoid arthritis who report intolerance to milk have antibodies to milk proteins. The body forms these antibodies to protect itself from what it mistakenly perceives as a harmful substance, but the antibodies attack other parts of the body in addition to the milk.” Dairy products are also known to create a sort of brain fog for people who have an intolerance. My symptoms also include the pains in my gut.

The good news is that I found a new cook book “Against All Grain” that I’m thrilled to start using for my new dietary restrictions. The author’s name is Danielle Walker and she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease at the age of 22. Now as a mother, she wants to eat more paleo, meaning she cooks gluten-free, dairy-free and legume-free.

Here are the main culprits I have to replace in my diet:

  • Milk = substitute with almond milk (or try to make your own almond milk!)
  • Cheese = on those days you just need cheese, try a little goats cheese instead of cheddar (I’m going to have to eat my gluten free pizza once in awhile though!)
  • Yogurt = greek yogurt is a new trend, but instead of eating egg salad or chicken salad for lunches made with greek yogurt, try hummus and veggies instead!
  • Ice cream = this is going to be the most difficult, but I can try making homemade cookies or sweets instead

Wish me luck!

new year, new me

What a whirlwind of 2014! Our house is amazing and everything people say about a house sucking up your time and money is true! But we are very excited about making it beautiful. Our fall was packed full of festivities, with a housewarming party, my 30th birthday (eek!) and the holidays with both of our families. We also were saddened by a couple of funerals we had to attend, one for a very beloved Grandfather, and another for my wonderful cousin who left us too young.

But CHEERS to a brand NEW YEAR!! I’m ready to take this year on and I hope you are too!

Remicade seems to be kicking in after about 5 months. The only negative I have experienced is that it gives me headaches. I usually get an instant headache during and after the infusion. The nurses say this is a histamine reaction, which is why they suggest a Benadryl or Claritin before the infusion. And red wine is the other culprit — apparently the Remicade does not like alcohol, so I have gotten extreme migraines the day after a glass of wine that cause me to vomit. So beware if you’re taking this too!

Although Remicade is working much better than before, it still does not help the minor flare ups and swelling that Rheumatoid Arthritis causes randomly. So my doctor has suggested Sulfasalazine as another medication to assist with these flares. It was one of the first medications to reduce or prevent further joint damage in patients with arthritis. When I went to fill the prescription, I read the inactive ingredients as I usually do and realized that I would not be able to take the brand name drug. Luckily, I have an amazing compounding pharmacist at Walgreens who ordered the Sulfasalazine powder and created capsules with nothing else in them.

If you also have some reactions to inactive ingredients in medications, don’t hesitate to ask for a compounding pharmacist at your local Walgreens. Most states have at least one location with a specialty pharmacist on staff. They can also answer questions for you about medications and help research inactive ingredients until they find a suitable medication for your needs.


figuring out the right Rx for you

It has been awhile again, mostly because WE BOUGHT A HOUSE!!! But also because I am still trying to figure out the right prescription for my symptoms.

Back to the house…it’s a dream come true! We just love our neighborhood, we’ve already made friends with some neighbors, and we are excited for all the potential it has for remodeling. The past month has been packed with moving, unpacking, painting and doing heavy maintenance on the house. My body has been exhausted and sore in ways that I’ve never experienced, but it’s worth it.
















The other battle I’ve been fighting at the same time as all of this change is my medication. I decided that Orencia was not going to work for me. It never “kicked in” like I was hoping for, and after 7 months, I should have noticed some improvement in my pain levels.

All I can say is don’t give up. There are so many biologic medications to choose from, that one of them is bound to work. So my next attempt is Remicade, which is related to the Enbrel and Cimzia family. The good ting about Remicade is that it has the flexibility in frequency of infusions and dosage amount. So my doctor is able to change my injection dates if necessary, or my dosage if necessary, until they find the right balance for me.

Only bad thing about Remicade is that it can cause allergic reactions much easier and your body can reject it at any point. So I take Claritin or Benedryl with the infusion each month and just make sure my antibodies don’t grow against it. Otherwise, we will see how it goes! I can already tell that the infusion is helping faster than Orencia ever did. Fingers crossed!

I’d love to hear about your experiences with Remicade. Find me on Facebook and comment!


the walk to cure arthritis – denver

Help me raise funds to support the Arthritis Foundation and find a cure for arthritis!

I joined the Walk to Cure Arthritis because I am one of the more than 50 million people who live with arthritis. I was diagnosed 4 years ago with Rheumatoid Arthritis and have been struggling with Psoriasis since I was a child. I am ready to help find a cure for these debilitating auto-immune diseases, to help the millions of people and over 300,000 children who are in pain on a daily basis.

Join me at the walk on May 18th in Denver, or donate to the Arthritis Foundation today!


Your donation today will help fund arthritis research, education and community programs and get us closer to a cure for the millions who suffer from this debilitating disease. Thank you for your kindness and support!

See more at my personal donation page! Or join my team to walk with hundreds of people affected by arthritis on May 18th.



giving back

I recently found a way to give back to a good cause by doing what I love. The Arthritis Foundation was looking for volunteer committee members and I thought this was the perfect fit since it is close to my heart and my everyday life.

When I went to the first committee meeting for the Denver Arthritis Foundation Walk to Cure Arthritis, they needed a designer and social media expert to volunteer time to the cause. So I have been giving my time the past couple of months to fundraising, spreading awareness and updating social media for the Walk to Cure Arthritis 2014 in Denver.

WTCA Facebook cover image rev for redesign

The Walk to Cure Arthritis raises funds and awareness to fight the nation’s leading cause of disability. We aren’t just helping the millions of people who live with arthritis pain, we’re funding research that’s getting us closer to a cure. This year, the focus is on the CURE for arthritis, since many people don’t understand that arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile arthritis are chronic diseases and are very difficult to live with.

The Denver Walk to Cure Arthritis is at Washington Park on May 18th this year and features a three-mile and one-mile course. Pet owners are encouraged to bring their dogs to enjoy the pet area, sponsored by Toyota. And there will be a children’s area sponsored by the Colorado Rapids.

Let’s walk together, support each other and raise funds to find a cure for arthritis! Register Today