BPT — In 2007, Seamus Mullen, cookbook author and owner of Tertulia restaurant in New York City, woke up with debilitating pain and couldn’t move. He tried to stand and collapsed. Unable to reach his phone, he stayed on the floor for hours until a neighbor heard him call for help. After several days in the hospital, doctors determined that Mullen had rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an autoimmune disease that causes chronic pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of physical function. He had become one of the 1.6 million Americans living with RA.
The pain from RA can impact people’s ability to do even the simplest of daily tasks like opening a jar or brushing their teeth. Mullen tried to cope with the disease, but his joint pain became so severe that it started affecting his career as a chef. After a couple of years of living with pain on a regular basis, Mullen knew he had to rethink his approach to managing his RA.
“When I was diagnosed with RA, I felt as if the rug had been pulled out from under me,” says Mullen. “The RA pain was constantly in the background as I was working in my restaurant and I realized I had lowered my expectations for what it meant to feel OK. One day I realized it didn’t have to be this way and I recommitted myself to better managing my disease.”
For Mullen, that meant learning as much about RA as he could, including the clinical tests and measures his doctor used to evaluate his RA. He also started to closely monitor his symptoms and how RA was impacting his daily life – and he shared this information with his doctor.
“I’ve found it critical to have a very open, direct relationship with my doctor,” says Mullen. “I’ve also found it important to share my goals with him to make sure we’re on the same page with my RA management plan. I set short-term goals, which are great because they can be more quickly achieved and make me feel like I’m making progress – these include things like taking a yoga class twice a week. I also set long-term goals to keep me on track for the bigger things I want to accomplish, like growing my business, starting a family, being physically active and taking an even more active role in managing my RA.”
Today, Mullen is reaching out to help other people suffering from RA pain in his role as spokesperson for Rethink RA, a campaign designed to help people with rheumatoid arthritis enhance their understanding of the disease and prepare them to have more meaningful conversations about RA symptom management with their doctor. The campaign offers information and tools in a free RethinKit available at www.RethinkRA.com/cooking. The website also offers Mullen’s top 10 tips for simplifying cooking preparation and recipes that can be prepared in 10 steps or less to make cooking easier for people with RA.
“As a busy chef, I know it can be tough to live with a chronic disease like RA. That’s why I encourage people with RA to check out the website and order the RethinKit – it provides some quick-start resources to help people gain more control over managing their RA,” says Mullen.
While Mullen has achieved many of his professional goals, he knows the work isn’t over. Living with a chronic disease means working hard at managing his RA on a daily basis. His hope for other people living with RA pain is that they, like him, rethink their approach to managing RA and recommit themselves to working with their doctor to better manage their disease.
For more information and to order a free RethinKit, please visit www.RethinkRA.com/cooking. This campaign is sponsored by Pfizer. Inc.