Being Creative


I’ve wanted to create my own artwork for RheumaBlog’s banner for a long time, now, but I just couldn’t seem to translate the vision in my mind to an image on paper.

So I used Wassily Kandinsky’s version of St. George and the Dragon for the banner instead. I adore this painting. I love its rawness, its blazing primitiveness, its perfect flow and constant movement. I love the artist’s magnificent use of contrasting and complimentary colors; combined, they pop the image right off the canvas and bring it alive. I love the dapple-gray warhorse and most especially I love the wry, knowing grin on the dragon’s face. Did Kandinsky put it there on purpose? I think he did. Everyone fights dragons of many kinds during the course of their lives, but only a very few actually slay them.

The only part of the painting I’ve never much cared for was the sacrificial maiden, set off to the right of the action as if she was an afterthought. In fact, she’s looking away from St. George and the dragon, a dreamy look on her moony face. Silly, overdressed twit.

You may have noticed that while I used Kandinsky’s wonderful art for my RheumaBlog banner, I usually cropped that brainless-looking girl right out. See, the brave knight attacking the dragon is me. And the dragon himself is my rheumatoid disease. In my ongoing battle with him, there’s simply no place for a helpless woman.

Still, as compelling as Kandinsky’s artwork is, I’ve long wished I could create some art of my own to use as RheumaBlog’s banner. And now, finally, I’ve done it! I had to crop it tightly to fit WordPress’s parameters, but I think it still works. The smirking rheuma-dragon is there–and so am I: small, chubby, but fierce and determined.

Here it is, uncropped:

I’d really like to know what you think of it. I realize it’s much less dramatic and more humorous than Kandinsky’s work (and jeez, he was an actual Famous Artist!), but I’ve used humor and whimsy as my armor against this disease from the start. Finally, my own art works best!

I’ve changed the page’s colors to match up with the new banner. I realize that some of you may have difficulty reading the type on a colored background. Please let me know if the pale yellow is a problem and I’ll be glad to change it back to white. I’m just playing around with the design elements right now, tweaking here and there for looks and readability. I want to hear from you so I can make sure it’s accessible for everyone.

I created this artwork with my imagination, my new Surface Pro tablet computer and stylus, and the wonderful illustration and manga program Clip Studio Paint.

And now, it’s late. The rheuma-dragon, that monster, is gnawing that tearing at my fingers, hands, and wrists. So I’m bugging out for the night, achy and weary, my dragon still un-slayed. But you know what? I’m also really happy.


Welcome Kevzara®, the Latest RA Biologic!

This info is from my dear friend and fellow RD blogger Carla. For me–and for so many others–there is a lot of hope tied up in this news. Bravo, Sanofi/Regeneron!

xCarla's Corner

Late Monday, May 22, the FDA gave approval to Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: REGN) and Sanofi’s new biologic RA treatment, sarilumab, under the U.S. brand name Kevzara. It is the latest addition to the Interleukin Inhibitor (IL-Inhibitor) class of drugs that also includes Kineret and Actemra. The medication comes in an auto-injector and is administered every two weeks. The primary focus for this drug are patients that have “failed” on at least one other biologic. It can be used with or without methotrexate. The news release from the company can be read here:

I am personally thrilled that there is a new option for RA patients, especially those like me who have been on numerous treatment plans that eventually quit working. Like other products, such as computer processors, each new product holds promise of improvement over the ones that came before it.

Actual availability for patients is, of course…

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Posted in RA

Joint Compassion

May is National Arthritis Month, raising awareness among Americans of the variousRD Hand 051117cropped diseases and conditions that we know collectively as “arthritis.” They afflict more than 50 million adults in the U.S., and of those, more than half (about 27 million) have osteoarthritis (OA).

Rheumatoid arthritis (which I prefer to call rheumatoid disease) affects just one-and-a-half million Americans.

What’s the difference? Why should we care? Please visit to find out.

Coping With It

Coping With ItI turned off the dryer and reached in, burying my hands in the deep-heated load of towels that had just finished the dry cycle. Oh, that felt so good! For a long moment, I just left them there, wiggling my fingers and letting the heat sink into my achy hands …

Life doesn’t stop just because I have rheumatoid disease. It goes on–and so do we. Please read more at

Posted in RA

Sketching my battle plans

As you might have noticed, I got into a redecorating mood again and gave RheumaBlog a new-ish look. This particular WordPress theme, Bloggy, will work better whether you’re reading this from your smartphone, your tablet, or your laptop or desktop computer. I figured I probably ought to bring RheumaBlog into the 21st Century, even if I had to do it kicking and screaming.


Illustration by Howard David Johnson

I’ve been skirmishing with the rheuma-dragon frequently these days. He tends to attack my hands and feet, for the most part. That damned dragon means to bring me to my knees.

I categorically refuse. I’m keeping my weapons sharp: three different DMARDs; the biologic Orencia, which I self-inject weekly; the nerve-pain medication gabapentin; Cymbalta, an anti-depressant indicated for chronic pain; an NSAID, and the usual vitamins and minerals. I’m also keeping an eye on my nutrition and portion-control; the gabapentin and Cymbalta have increased my appetite–an aggravating side-effect of both drugs–so I’ve gained weight, the very last thing I need.

My hands and wrists ache and twinge every day, but I’m still art-ing and still writing, but I’ve had to restrict the latter to writing articles for, a truly top-quality website that reaches thousands upon thousands of my fellow rheuma-dragon fighters. By doing that I’m saving my hands for my art, which I’m creating almost exclusively in a digital format, now.

I’ve found that sketching and painting via computer is a bit easier on my joints; I don’t need to use much pressure on the stylus, and my digital art program allows me to cover what would be large areas of paper or canvas with color without much effort. I’m still learning how to use this wonderfully magical new tool, but I’m having so much fun with it! Every day I learn something new about what the program–or “app,” which I think is the current correct name for it–can do. And by participating in the Twitter art challenges @AnimalAlphabets and @colour_collective, I never run out of things to draw and paint. Twitter has also introduced me to literally hundreds of my fellow artists/illustrators. I’m learning from them, as well, simply by looking at the wonderful work they post. And some of them have blogs or websites in which they actually teach. I’m an avid, hungry student!

I thought I’d share some of my recent digital artwork with you. And, while I’m not quite there yet, I hope to make some of it available for purchase one of these days soon. Prints, T-shirts, totes, mugs … we’ll see. I’m dreaming.

The art:

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Posted in RA

Twitter Chat – Being Your Own Advocate in Treatment Decisions

I plan to take part in this helpful and informative Twitter chat. Join me there! And thanks, Carla, for reminding me and others about it!

xCarla's Corner

On Thursday, April 13 at 7 pm ET, Megan Starshak (@TheGreatBM) and Keri Ann Flaccomio (@keriannecdotes) will host the first #FinelyTuned Twitter chat, “Being Your Own Advocate in Treatment Decisions,” with special guest Aimed Alliance (@aimedalliance), a non-profit organization committed to improving access and transparency around quality, patient-centered health care. To participate in the conversation that evening, all you have to do is follow the #FinelyTuned hashtag on Twitter.

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Posted in RA

Strategerizing RA

StrategerizingWhat do you do when your rheumatoid disease flares? Do you have an “action plan?”

I don’t have one of those. My flares don’t come and go like they once did—they’re pretty much constant these days. What I did—and do have—is a strategy aimed at soothing (if not actually relieving) the joint pain and helping me cope with it.

Read all about it at And thanks for stopping by! It means so much to me! I hope that reading about my “strategerizing” tactics will help you cope succussfully, day by day, with your rheumatoid disease.

Posted in RA

Rosacea and RD

I’ve been fighting an annoying rosacea flare since November last year. It’s sort of fun (and


WC Fields illustration by Rocky Sawyer

sardonic) to blame it on the outcome of the presidential election, but I doubt that’s what actually triggered it. Like that famous old comedian and actor WC Fields,  I’ve had the skin disease for decades, now. In my case, it comes and goes without warning.

Increased inflammation in my body is what causes my rosacea to flare, making my face look like a summer strawberry year-round. My autoimmune rheumatoid disease causes that systemic inflammation. And that brings up my next leap of logic: Might rosacea and rheumatoid disease be related?

Find out here. 

Posted in RA

Wee Beastie Laughter


You know, laughter is good for you.

I was just chortling at our black cat Kitty-Kitty (I know, I know, but it fits her perfectly), who’s mrrp-ing with longing at a tiny hummingbird at the feeder just outside the window. She can’t get the hummer and wouldn’t really know what to do with it if she did, but that plaintive little mrrp just slays me …

I love writing about the gifts my little buddies give me each day–and how those gifts affect my physical and mental well being. Read more here.

Posted in RA