Lotty

@thechronicparent | contributor
Lotty has rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes and coeliac disease. She writes about ways to find hope when things are tough and what it's like being a parent with chronic illnesses.
Lotty

Travel Tips With Rheumatoid Arthritis and Diabetes

Now the kids are a bit older, going on holiday is a lot less stressful — we don’t have to worry about highchairs, diapers, sterilizing equipment, 45 changes of clothes… but there is a certain element of packing and preparation I will always have to do: packing for holiday with a chronic illness. Babies and long-term conditions make for similar holiday-mates in this respect — you have to be prepared for all circumstances. It has made me quite anxious in the past; when I should be getting excited about new adventures, I have felt overwhelmed. But I’m gradually building up some systems that help me avoid this feeling. Here’s my top tips: 1. Plan what you need nice and early. I get prescriptions from three different sources, two of which are mail order. About a month in advance, I think about placing orders and getting any extra bits I might need. When getting meds prescribed by my GP, I make sure I include an explanatory note like, “I’m ordering extra as I’m going on holiday.” I’ve had a few last-minute begging sessions at the GP surgery the night before traveling, which is never fun. 2. She’s making a list, she’s checking it twice (and once more to be absolutely sure). I have a list of everything I might need. I also have a dedicated sponge bag where I leave my holiday supplies. Each time I go away, I can just check expiry dates and top up with anything that’s missing. My diabetes team advise taking at least two times the supply you’ll need while away, so it’s a pretty hefty bag now! 3. Plan for the worst-case scenario. Nine times out of 10 it won’t happen, but it’s worth taking the time to plan for tricky situations. I take all the painkillers I could possibly need in case my rheumatoid arthritis decides to play up. Yes, you can usually buy them where you are on holiday, but you don’t want to be faffing about with that while you’re away. I also take antibiotics if I’m going abroad, spare batteries and consumables for my insulin pump and blood glucose meter and a glucagon pen. You don’t want to be wasting a whole precious hour in Paris trying to buy the right type of battery for your pump (speaks the voice of experience)! 4. Note to self. I leave my insulin and injections in the fridge until the last minute, so stick a huge note saying “INSULIN!!!” on my door the day before departure, so it’s the last thing I see when I leave the house the next day. This gets one of two reactions when I see it: “Argh, nearly forgot!” or a smug, “Yeah, I got this.” 5. Translate ahead of time. If I’m going abroad, I spend some quality time with Google translate before leaving. I print a document (and have it on my phone) with phrases I might need detailing my conditions and medications. 6. Do an airport walk-through in your head. Airports fill most parents with dread on a good day, but having to get all my medical stuff through adds to the stress. Most of the time no one even asks questions, but I have had all my insulin, pump and other equipment checked before. I make sure my doctors’ letters saying I can travel with needles, pumps and so on are right there with my passport. 7. On the day… If my rheumatoid arthritis has been playing up at all, I take painkillers at the beginning of the day to help make travel more comfortable and reduce any worry about pain. I pack plenty of sugar supplies for hypos and a few gluten-free snacks in my rucksack just in case I am caught short without anything safe to eat. I tell my traveling buddies if I’m feeling unwell on the day so they can help make the journey as easy as possible. And I check that list one more time! I do still get a bit tetchy before going away, even for one night. But putting some systems in place has definitely helped me look forward to a break rather than worrying about everything that could go wrong. What are your tips for dealing with holidays, airports and travel? Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

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Lotty

How Rheumatoid Arthritis Stops Me From Exercise

I went to a pilates class this morning. Not a big deal for most people, but for a person with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) it was a huge step. One of my goals for the year is to do some more exercise, but trying to find an activity that suits me has been difficult. I do lots of walking, but I’m realizing it’s time to push myself a bit more. I have been quite nervous about exercise, for many reasons. I know getting fitter will be a good thing for my health, but my conditions seem to present quite a few barriers to actually doing it: 1. Past failures. In the past I’ve tried swimming, which I found very painful. That put me off exercise in general, as swimming is supposed to be the “joint-friendly” option. But just because it works for some people, doesn’t mean it will for me and there are many other sports to try. I tried pilates when I had undiagnosed RA and it was awful. To get there this week, I had to remind myself how less swollen and sore I am now. Just because it didn’t work for me before, doesn’t mean it won’t now. 2. Comparison. I have lots of super-fit, run-a-marathon type friends. In the past I have felt quite jealous that they can choose to make a lifestyle change and just go for it. But “comparison is the thief of joy” and I have to choose to think realistically about what I can achieve. It might look like nothing compared to others, but for me, the change could be huge. 3. Self-consciousness. I know in my head that no one will care if I lose balance or can’t do some exercises. But this morning, I felt like I was putting myself on show by going to a group class. I felt self-conscious, but when I focused on my breathing and what my body was doing, I forgot about everyone else in the room. Before I left the house, I just had to ignore the butterflies in my stomach and head out the door in spite of them. 4. Fear of pain or damage. This is a real factor that needs to be considered when you have damaged joints, or parts of your body that might flare if you overwork them. But, I realize I just won’t know how my body will cope until I try using it. There were a few pilates positions that didn’t work for me, but I could do most of the exercises without hurting my joints. Each week, I will learn more about what I should avoid and where I should push myself to the next level. 5. The compound effect. I think having more than one condition sometimes makes me think, “It’s all just too complex!” That can cause me to give these health factors more space than they deserve. For example, my diabetes is a consideration when doing exercise, but I think it becomes scarier when combined with my RA. I worry about having a hypo, but if it happens it’s not the end of the world. I might find it super-embarrassing (I’ll just refer you to my point above about self-consciousness!) but I know how to deal with it and it won’t cause any major issues. Before I had RA, I had a brief encounter with rowing at university — if hypos didn’t stop me then, there’s no reason they should stop me now. Taking a step back and considering how to overcome each individual issue is a much better approach than seeing myself as a bundle of health-related sports disaster. I’m determined to overcome these barriers this year. It was my diagnosis of osteopenia last week that was the kick up the bum I needed to finally get me into my joggers and along to that pilates class. Osteopenia is a loss of bone density, probably caused by the combination of my autoimmune conditions. Doing weight-bearing exercise can prevent bone density decreasing further — it made me realize the time has come to stop avoiding sport. I’m very fortunate — the class I went to is run by a physiotherapy friend of mine who was great at quietly helping me figure out what I could achieve. I feel so good now, both physically and mentally. The next challenge for me will be to actually get to the class again next week. I want to give myself a pat on the back for “doing it” but getting along to one class is only the first baby step in improving my strength and fitness. However, at least I’ve made that first step, and I’m feeling very happy about it! Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

Lotty

How Rheumatoid Arthritis Stops Me From Exercise

I went to a pilates class this morning. Not a big deal for most people, but for a person with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) it was a huge step. One of my goals for the year is to do some more exercise, but trying to find an activity that suits me has been difficult. I do lots of walking, but I’m realizing it’s time to push myself a bit more. I have been quite nervous about exercise, for many reasons. I know getting fitter will be a good thing for my health, but my conditions seem to present quite a few barriers to actually doing it: 1. Past failures. In the past I’ve tried swimming, which I found very painful. That put me off exercise in general, as swimming is supposed to be the “joint-friendly” option. But just because it works for some people, doesn’t mean it will for me and there are many other sports to try. I tried pilates when I had undiagnosed RA and it was awful. To get there this week, I had to remind myself how less swollen and sore I am now. Just because it didn’t work for me before, doesn’t mean it won’t now. 2. Comparison. I have lots of super-fit, run-a-marathon type friends. In the past I have felt quite jealous that they can choose to make a lifestyle change and just go for it. But “comparison is the thief of joy” and I have to choose to think realistically about what I can achieve. It might look like nothing compared to others, but for me, the change could be huge. 3. Self-consciousness. I know in my head that no one will care if I lose balance or can’t do some exercises. But this morning, I felt like I was putting myself on show by going to a group class. I felt self-conscious, but when I focused on my breathing and what my body was doing, I forgot about everyone else in the room. Before I left the house, I just had to ignore the butterflies in my stomach and head out the door in spite of them. 4. Fear of pain or damage. This is a real factor that needs to be considered when you have damaged joints, or parts of your body that might flare if you overwork them. But, I realize I just won’t know how my body will cope until I try using it. There were a few pilates positions that didn’t work for me, but I could do most of the exercises without hurting my joints. Each week, I will learn more about what I should avoid and where I should push myself to the next level. 5. The compound effect. I think having more than one condition sometimes makes me think, “It’s all just too complex!” That can cause me to give these health factors more space than they deserve. For example, my diabetes is a consideration when doing exercise, but I think it becomes scarier when combined with my RA. I worry about having a hypo, but if it happens it’s not the end of the world. I might find it super-embarrassing (I’ll just refer you to my point above about self-consciousness!) but I know how to deal with it and it won’t cause any major issues. Before I had RA, I had a brief encounter with rowing at university — if hypos didn’t stop me then, there’s no reason they should stop me now. Taking a step back and considering how to overcome each individual issue is a much better approach than seeing myself as a bundle of health-related sports disaster. I’m determined to overcome these barriers this year. It was my diagnosis of osteopenia last week that was the kick up the bum I needed to finally get me into my joggers and along to that pilates class. Osteopenia is a loss of bone density, probably caused by the combination of my autoimmune conditions. Doing weight-bearing exercise can prevent bone density decreasing further — it made me realize the time has come to stop avoiding sport. I’m very fortunate — the class I went to is run by a physiotherapy friend of mine who was great at quietly helping me figure out what I could achieve. I feel so good now, both physically and mentally. The next challenge for me will be to actually get to the class again next week. I want to give myself a pat on the back for “doing it” but getting along to one class is only the first baby step in improving my strength and fitness. However, at least I’ve made that first step, and I’m feeling very happy about it! Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

Lotty

How Rheumatoid Arthritis Stops Me From Exercise

I went to a pilates class this morning. Not a big deal for most people, but for a person with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) it was a huge step. One of my goals for the year is to do some more exercise, but trying to find an activity that suits me has been difficult. I do lots of walking, but I’m realizing it’s time to push myself a bit more. I have been quite nervous about exercise, for many reasons. I know getting fitter will be a good thing for my health, but my conditions seem to present quite a few barriers to actually doing it: 1. Past failures. In the past I’ve tried swimming, which I found very painful. That put me off exercise in general, as swimming is supposed to be the “joint-friendly” option. But just because it works for some people, doesn’t mean it will for me and there are many other sports to try. I tried pilates when I had undiagnosed RA and it was awful. To get there this week, I had to remind myself how less swollen and sore I am now. Just because it didn’t work for me before, doesn’t mean it won’t now. 2. Comparison. I have lots of super-fit, run-a-marathon type friends. In the past I have felt quite jealous that they can choose to make a lifestyle change and just go for it. But “comparison is the thief of joy” and I have to choose to think realistically about what I can achieve. It might look like nothing compared to others, but for me, the change could be huge. 3. Self-consciousness. I know in my head that no one will care if I lose balance or can’t do some exercises. But this morning, I felt like I was putting myself on show by going to a group class. I felt self-conscious, but when I focused on my breathing and what my body was doing, I forgot about everyone else in the room. Before I left the house, I just had to ignore the butterflies in my stomach and head out the door in spite of them. 4. Fear of pain or damage. This is a real factor that needs to be considered when you have damaged joints, or parts of your body that might flare if you overwork them. But, I realize I just won’t know how my body will cope until I try using it. There were a few pilates positions that didn’t work for me, but I could do most of the exercises without hurting my joints. Each week, I will learn more about what I should avoid and where I should push myself to the next level. 5. The compound effect. I think having more than one condition sometimes makes me think, “It’s all just too complex!” That can cause me to give these health factors more space than they deserve. For example, my diabetes is a consideration when doing exercise, but I think it becomes scarier when combined with my RA. I worry about having a hypo, but if it happens it’s not the end of the world. I might find it super-embarrassing (I’ll just refer you to my point above about self-consciousness!) but I know how to deal with it and it won’t cause any major issues. Before I had RA, I had a brief encounter with rowing at university — if hypos didn’t stop me then, there’s no reason they should stop me now. Taking a step back and considering how to overcome each individual issue is a much better approach than seeing myself as a bundle of health-related sports disaster. I’m determined to overcome these barriers this year. It was my diagnosis of osteopenia last week that was the kick up the bum I needed to finally get me into my joggers and along to that pilates class. Osteopenia is a loss of bone density, probably caused by the combination of my autoimmune conditions. Doing weight-bearing exercise can prevent bone density decreasing further — it made me realize the time has come to stop avoiding sport. I’m very fortunate — the class I went to is run by a physiotherapy friend of mine who was great at quietly helping me figure out what I could achieve. I feel so good now, both physically and mentally. The next challenge for me will be to actually get to the class again next week. I want to give myself a pat on the back for “doing it” but getting along to one class is only the first baby step in improving my strength and fitness. However, at least I’ve made that first step, and I’m feeling very happy about it! Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

Lotty

How Rheumatoid Arthritis Stops Me From Exercise

I went to a pilates class this morning. Not a big deal for most people, but for a person with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) it was a huge step. One of my goals for the year is to do some more exercise, but trying to find an activity that suits me has been difficult. I do lots of walking, but I’m realizing it’s time to push myself a bit more. I have been quite nervous about exercise, for many reasons. I know getting fitter will be a good thing for my health, but my conditions seem to present quite a few barriers to actually doing it: 1. Past failures. In the past I’ve tried swimming, which I found very painful. That put me off exercise in general, as swimming is supposed to be the “joint-friendly” option. But just because it works for some people, doesn’t mean it will for me and there are many other sports to try. I tried pilates when I had undiagnosed RA and it was awful. To get there this week, I had to remind myself how less swollen and sore I am now. Just because it didn’t work for me before, doesn’t mean it won’t now. 2. Comparison. I have lots of super-fit, run-a-marathon type friends. In the past I have felt quite jealous that they can choose to make a lifestyle change and just go for it. But “comparison is the thief of joy” and I have to choose to think realistically about what I can achieve. It might look like nothing compared to others, but for me, the change could be huge. 3. Self-consciousness. I know in my head that no one will care if I lose balance or can’t do some exercises. But this morning, I felt like I was putting myself on show by going to a group class. I felt self-conscious, but when I focused on my breathing and what my body was doing, I forgot about everyone else in the room. Before I left the house, I just had to ignore the butterflies in my stomach and head out the door in spite of them. 4. Fear of pain or damage. This is a real factor that needs to be considered when you have damaged joints, or parts of your body that might flare if you overwork them. But, I realize I just won’t know how my body will cope until I try using it. There were a few pilates positions that didn’t work for me, but I could do most of the exercises without hurting my joints. Each week, I will learn more about what I should avoid and where I should push myself to the next level. 5. The compound effect. I think having more than one condition sometimes makes me think, “It’s all just too complex!” That can cause me to give these health factors more space than they deserve. For example, my diabetes is a consideration when doing exercise, but I think it becomes scarier when combined with my RA. I worry about having a hypo, but if it happens it’s not the end of the world. I might find it super-embarrassing (I’ll just refer you to my point above about self-consciousness!) but I know how to deal with it and it won’t cause any major issues. Before I had RA, I had a brief encounter with rowing at university — if hypos didn’t stop me then, there’s no reason they should stop me now. Taking a step back and considering how to overcome each individual issue is a much better approach than seeing myself as a bundle of health-related sports disaster. I’m determined to overcome these barriers this year. It was my diagnosis of osteopenia last week that was the kick up the bum I needed to finally get me into my joggers and along to that pilates class. Osteopenia is a loss of bone density, probably caused by the combination of my autoimmune conditions. Doing weight-bearing exercise can prevent bone density decreasing further — it made me realize the time has come to stop avoiding sport. I’m very fortunate — the class I went to is run by a physiotherapy friend of mine who was great at quietly helping me figure out what I could achieve. I feel so good now, both physically and mentally. The next challenge for me will be to actually get to the class again next week. I want to give myself a pat on the back for “doing it” but getting along to one class is only the first baby step in improving my strength and fitness. However, at least I’ve made that first step, and I’m feeling very happy about it! Follow this journey on the author’s blog.