Reading Without Hands

Reading Without HandsI’ve loved to read since I learned how as a little girl. Reading has always informed and even transformed my days, my nights, and my life. With a book in my hands, I’ve traveled the world. I’ve parachuted from low-flying planes into war zones and wildfires. I’ve tracked down and caught murderers and terrorists. I’ve visited other worlds and other dimensions, ridden on the backs of dragons, and traveled into the most daunting wilderness. And all of it I’ve done without ever leaving my chair …

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Not Guilty

Boxer Puppy in Rear Seat of Car

Sometimes I feel guilty about having rheumatoid disease.

Then I kick myself. “Why are you feeling guilty about this? You didn’t do anything to get RD. You didn’t commit a bunch of terrible “sins” or live a selfish, bad life before the disease started. You weren’t an awful child. You’ve always tried your best to be a good, kind, caring, loving human being! And you’re doing everything you can to treat the disease—medications, lifestyle modifications, etc. You eat your vegetables! Whole-grain everything! Chicken and fish instead of steak! So stop feeling guilty about something you can’t help!

Then I feel guilty for feeling guilty…

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Ow! …I mean, Ohm!


I’m reading a book by the venerable Buddhist monk and sage Thich Nhat Hanh called “Peace Is Every Step.” I discovered it way back in the late 1980s, a year or so after my diagnosis with rheumatoid arthritis, and it started my long—and admittedly stuttering—journey into the practice of everyday mindfulness. I pick it up and read it again every few years. It always re-opens my eyes and my mind.

In “Peace Is Every Step,” Thich teaches, with sweetness and gentle humor, that we can find inner peace in everything we do, from walking to washing dishes. Being mindful doesn’t require actual meditation. We don’t need to sit in the lotus position with our palms up, eyes closed, attempting to levitate. Instead, we can use frequent moments during each day to find our peace, our inner calm, and ourselves.

Mindfulness, of course, is currently getting a lot of attention as a way to manage chronic pain…

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Staying busy … in a good way

As you’ve probably noticed, most of my writing these days links back to, a fantastic website for those of us who find ourselves in the
“rheumatoid arthritis community” (whether we like it or not…). I love writing for them. Smiling at RAThe website is filled with personal stories about every aspect of having RA and credible, accurate information about the disease, it’s symptoms, and the drugs that treat it. As an artist and graphic designer, I’m enamored of the art and design aspects of the site as well. I feel honored to be one of their RA patient advocates.

Writing for and doing other freelance writing for health-related websites has kept me busy. Along with that, I’ve been indulging myself in creating new artwork on a regular basis, a pastime that gives me real joy. It’s also turned out to beGardener-CC-070116 amazingly therapeutic: when I’m drawing, my mind is far away from the stresses and worries of everyday life. It also works as a form of meditation, helping me cope with my RD symptoms. Even though my RD affects my hands and wrists more than any other joints in my body these days, I can usually at least draw lightly with a pencil. What more can any artist want?

I’ve also taken to Twitter as an RD/chronic pain patient advocate and have been the beneficiary of some incredible cheerleading and encouragement during several Joint Decisions and HealtheVoices conferences. And I’ve been honored to serve on several pharmaceutical patient advisory boards over the last 18 months or so. All of these endeavors puts those of us who live with rheumatoid disease every day first as they advocate for us and search for new and better treatments. One day perhaps they’ll even find a cure!

Finally, as many of you know, I’ve been living with my elderly mom for several years now as her companion and her caregiver. Sometimes the caregiving part takes a great deal of time; other times, hardly any at all. I never really know which to expect when I get out of bed each morning. Nevertheless, I feel blessed that I’m able to spend such truly precious time with my Mom at this stage in both our lives.

All of these things take up a fair amount of my time–which is a lame way to apologize for not posting here as much as I’d like to. It’s also why I was surprised–and honored!–2016_badge_list_v2_badge-rheumatoidarthritis (1)to receive an email from today informing me they’ve chosen Rheumablog as one of their Best Rheumatoid Arthritis Blogs of 2016. Wow! I think this may be the fifth consecutive year for my humble blog!

RheumaBlog is only one of a handful of rheumatoid-arthritis related blogs chosen for this honor. Please click the badge on the upper right in the sidebar and, when you have time, visit them all and offer your congratulations. Each of them is unique, written by truly great, down-to-earth, compassionate and empathetic people who not only live with this crap disease every day but care enough to want to pass on whatever they learn–along with support and encouragement–to others and their caregivers. I’m still just gobsmacked that, given my spotty posting record over the last year or so, RheumaBlog was chosen to be honored with them. Thanks so much,!

JDTwitterChat-072616Finally, I’d like to let you know that Joint Decisions 2016 is sponsoring another of their really popular Twitter chats next week on the 26th. If you’re a tweeter (or whatever it’s called), mark your calendar and join Molly Schreiber of You’re at Jax and Rick Phillips of RA Diabetes to chat about preparing for your appointment with your rheumatologist, primary care provider, or other clinician. These chats are fun and lively, and I always enjoy them. It’s easy: just search #JointDecisions and tweet. I plan to be there (@RheumaBlog_Wren), so be sure to chirp “hi” at me!

Until next time, friends. Be well, stay safe, and don’t forget to look for the gifts life offers us each day.




The Joy Garden

The Joy GardenOh, it was such a nice day!

The late spring sun was shining and the air outside was as soft and warm as a caress. My husband, a master gardener, was on his way over to my Mom’s to help me tame a wildling umbrella plant. Living outside on her apartment’s small, half-shaded patio here in California’s hot Central Valley for the past 18 months, my little Schefflera plant had gleefully grown nearly two feet skyward. Most of the growth was on two branches, so that the plant resembled a giant “V.” The center was finally filling in nicely, too.

But it had outgrown its pot and was now so large I’d had to tie half of it to one of the posts supporting the upstairs apartment’s balcony…

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RA Ink

Getting a tattoo is a deeply personal thing. I haven’t ever gotten one myself, but I know lots of people who have, including my daughter. A lot of thought goes into each tattoo that people get. They’re very meaningful.

Last year, set up a slideshow highlighting the rheumatoid arthritis-specific tattoos of several RA patients. Those photos are a powerful reminder that each of

Dorothy Berenger’s RA tattoo.

us is stronger than this disease, and not only that–they’re a great way to raise awareness about it.

Well, is putting together a new RA-tattoo slideshow right now, and they’re looking for photos. If you have an RA-related tat you’d like to show the world that illustrates your ability to rise above this disease and help raise awareness at the same time, please consider submitting a photo of it to Healthline.

It’s easy. Just email  a clear photo (at least 285×285 in .jpg or .png format) of  your tattoo, plus a short description of it, with the subject “My RA tattoo,” to nominations@healthline. That’s all you have to do to have your tat featured on the website.

I’m looking forward to seeing this year’s collection of beautiful RA tattoos!


The War on Opioids Comes Home

“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it.”

— Eckhart Tolle

I ran across this quote recently. And, as quotes about living our lives often do, it struck me where I live.

Here’s why. I’d gone to my doctor (my primary care provider) for an annual checkup the day before I saw the quote. This was an important appointment. My rheumatologist had informed me a few weeks earlier that she would no longer prescribe opioid analgesics (with the exception of Tramadol) for pain caused by myrheumatoid disease.

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Mind over Matter: The Placebo/Nocebo Effects

Placebo-NoceboThe first time I heard of the “placebo effect” was way back in the 1970s on M.A.S.H., a TV sitcom about the staff of a field hospital in war-torn Korea. The episode portrayed it perfectly: when the fighting delayed the delivery of morphine to relieve the pain of the wounded soldiers at the hospital, the doctors, desperate to help their patients, reluctantly decided to bet on the power of suggestion: the placebo effect. They gave their patients carefully scheduled doses of sugar pills, telling them that they were receiving strong, opioid analgesics.

In all but a few of the men, it worked—at least until the real analgesics arrived …

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Asking for Help

Jars-HU-May2016People who have rheumatoid arthritis are just like everyone else. We work for a living, have families and friends, shop and run errands and play. Many of us have hobbies and pursue our passions with dedication and joy. We want to do everything we can–just like anyone.

But sometimes, the unpredictable joint stiffness, pain, fatigue, and malaise that this persnickety autoimmune disease frequently causes can force us to slow down …

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Yes I Can, No I Can’t

Yes I Can No I Cant

Rheumatoid disease always gets in my way.

I know I’m not alone in this; it’s one of the most frequent comments I run across in blogs and other social media platforms. RD’s activity-dampening effect is, perhaps, one of the most aggravating–and sometimes, heartbreaking–characteristics of the disease. It rudely horns into our lives and changes them, often stopping us from doing the things we love to do. Do we like it? Not one little bit.

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