Andy Pendergrass grew up in rural Louisiana as a particularly energetic and athletic child. However all the time looming behind his thoughts was the truth that each his mom and maternal grandmother had rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Pendergrass knew that his household historical past meant his possibilities of having the autoimmune illness had been larger than common, however he disregarded the chance.
“I performed soccer in highschool, so one thing all the time harm,” Pendergrass, 33, says. Even when he had had an inkling that it could be RA, “I’d have simply mentioned ‘I’m a man. Guys don’t get it…’ and simply form of generalized it like that.”
At age 23, Pendergrass lastly discovered that he, too, had RA. However the highway to his prognosis was hardly easy or simple. Coming to phrases together with his situation wasn’t straightforward, both.
Pendergrass now suspects his RA signs cropped up a lot earlier, in highschool. That’s when he observed ache that appeared “odd.” Nonetheless, he chalked up the signs to plantar fasciitis, a type of heel ache widespread amongst those that play intense sports activities.
It wasn’t till Pendergrass went to see his physician with a extreme sinus an infection that he sought medical consideration for his foot ache. The physician, Pendergrass says, agreed it could be plantar fasciitis, “’til I discussed that it was actually unhealthy in my toes.”
Conscious that RA ran in Pendergrass’s household, the physician ordered blood exams. A few days later, the physician referred to as to verify a prognosis for RA and referred Pendergrass to a rheumatologist.
The rheumatologist, nonetheless, advised Pendergrass that his signs didn’t stem from RA however from flat ft.
The brand new verdict left Pendergrass deeply confused. “I’ve actually large arches in my ft, so it was weird,” he says.
On the time, Pendergrass was on the point of transfer to Alaska together with his new spouse, Polly. He didn’t have time to kind via the conflicting diagnoses. “I made a decision to not trouble with the ache and put it off.”
It was solely later when Pendergrass moved to Missouri, and as his joint ache continued, that he determined to get a second opinion. A brand new rheumatologist confirmed that Pendergrass certainly had RA.
The information took a psychological and emotional toll on Pendergrass, a younger man who prized being bodily energetic.
“On the time, the most important query on my thoughts was what the remainder of my life was going to appear like,” he says.
Acceptance of his lifelong situation got here after time, analysis, and assist, particularly from Pendergrass’s mom.
“It’s onerous for individuals who don’t have the illness to grasp. As a result of you’ll be able to’t take a look at me and say after I’m having flare-ups,” he says. “That’s one of many issues she understands.”
Within the decade since his prognosis, Pendergrass has managed to maintain his athletic goals alive, even when he can’t precisely take up any sport with out hesitation, as he as soon as envisioned. Within the final couple of years, he has additionally gotten into CrossFit — a type of high-intensity interval coaching workouts that contain squats, pulling, and pushing with adjustable weights — and enjoys enjoying golf. He credit CrossFit exercises with strengthening his muscle mass and easing stress on his joints.
That kind of exercise is probably not the only option for some folks with RA who’ve unstable joints. Verify together with your physician you probably have RA earlier than beginning a brand new train plan to make certain it’s OK for you.
“I need to maximize the time that I get to be an athlete. It’s my ardour; it’s the place I get my frustration out, and I be at liberty,” he says. “And I don’t need RA to mess with that. If which means I have to eat clear, avoid inflammatory meals, and stretch extra, then so be it.”
Pendergrass moved again to his residence state of Louisiana a few years in the past. Dwelling with a continual illness could be isolating, notably for individuals who dwell exterior main cities. However social media has given Pendergrass an avenue to seek out assist and to hyperlink with others.
Lately, he arrange an Instagram account @rheumadad to share his journey.
“Truthfully, if there are any younger guys on the market, I want to actually join with them. As a result of I feel we lack a group of younger guys with arthritis to have the ability to commiserate with, to share concepts with, and to only really feel like I belong,” he says.
Pendergrass has two younger sons now. The thought that his youngsters would possibly change into the fourth technology with RA has crossed his thoughts. However Pendergrass refuses to dwell on it.
“I don’t enable these ideas to essentially take root in my thoughts. I do know it’s potential. I’m not going to place my head within the sand. And so, if it occurs, we’ll cope with it. It can break my coronary heart.
“The remainder of your life shouldn’t be going to be consumed with having RA. You may let it … however you should not. Life is about far more than having RA.”