For Tina Wesson, surviving six weeks in the Australian Outback on the hit reality-TV series, “Survivor,” was nothing compared to the challenges of battling rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Now, wielding her RA experience and Outback tenacity, Tina is spearheading “Survive and Succeed,” a national educational campaign sponsored by the Arthritis Foundation and Centocor, the maker of REMICADE(R).
The campaign is designed to empower RA patients with information about how to proactively manage their disease and stay active. Tina was diagnosed with RA more than seven years ago after visiting her physician with complaints of persistent pain and swelling in her joints that occurred following an average day on the tennis court.
An early diagnosis coupled with changes in her lifestyle, including proper medical treatment, allowed Tina to lead an active life again.
“I’ve always been an active person, so I was initially afraid RA would control my life and keep me from pursuing the activities I love,” said Tina. “However, I want to let others living with RA know that by working closely with my rheumatologist, I have achieved a balance of medication, exercise and healthy lifestyle choices that enables me to lead a productive, fulfilling life.”
Rheumatoid arthritis affects 2.1 million Americans. It is a chronic, often painful disease characterized by joint inflammation, usually beginning in the hands, wrists, knees, and elbows. The disease affects women more often than men. Initial RA symptoms include joint pain and fatigue. As the disease progresses, joints usually become more swollen, inflamed, and stiff. When inflammation persists or does not respond to treatment, it can destroy nearby cartilage, bone, tendons and ligaments, leading to permanent disability.
The centerpiece of “Survive and Succeed” is a comprehensive guide that Tina has developed with the Arthritis Foundation and Centocor that teaches readers how to live a more active and fulfilling life with RA. Tina will also be speaking about her own experience with the disease through various national and local appearances throughout this year and next, including a series of free educational seminars in 2002.
“For those with rheumatoid arthritis, taking an active role in the management of the disease is so important,” says John Klippel, M.D., medical director of the Arthritis Foundation. “How patients cope with RA can play an important role in their ability to manage its affect on their quality of life. Through the ‘Survive and Succeed’ program with Tina, we hope to empower others with RA to work with their healthcare team to develop an effective treatment and lifestyle program to meet their unique needs.”
If you or a loved one lives with RA and would like a “Survive and Succeed” package — including Tina’s new guide — call the toll-free campaign hotline at 1-800-707-8344 or log onto www.surviveandsucceed.com. For more information and tools to help take greater control of arthritis, visit the Arthritis Foundation’s website at www.arthritis.org.