"Other things have to work out, I need to prioritize myself now"

"Other things have to work out, I need to prioritize myself now"

Göran Sahlin was walking around with pain in his feet and was finally diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). His main rules in everyday life are to put himself first, to exercise, and to take advantage of all the opportunities he has to take care of himself.

Who are you? 

My name is Göran Sahlin, I’m 58 years old and I am an IT technician at Karolinska Institutet. I see myself as a fairly active person. I like to get out and about, I walk a lot. During the spring, summer, and autumn I spend much of my time out with the boat in the Stockholm archipelago. It's my big hobby.

How was it when you got your diagnosis?

It was probably similar to how it is for most people: I did not really understand what it meant. I got my first symptoms during a holiday trip in the autumn of 2017 when my family and I were in Florence, Italy. We walked long distances and I thought the pain I was feeling was due to bad shoes, and that it would pass when I got home and back into my usual routines. But when we got home, the troubles continued. They came and went without me really understanding what was the cause.

I went quite a long time with these symptoms and it was very boring. When you like to get out into nature and jump in and out of the boat, climb around among rocks, and be in the forest, I was really finding life difficult. I suddenly had to take into account that I had a lot of pain in my feet and adapt my life in a new way. Sometimes I had to skip doing something as simple as going out and walking. The family had to leave on their own and I had to stay home. It was not fun at all.

By the end of spring 2018, I felt that it had been going on a little too long and went to the health center. They gave me anti-inflammatory medicine that kicked in at once. But as soon as I stopped taking the tablets, the problems came back again. Eventually, I got an appointment with an orthopedist. The orthopedist did a magnetic X-ray and from there I was referred to the rheumatologist. About a year after my first symptoms, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). It was a relief. It was nice to find out what was wrong.

How has it been since then?

I was allowed to start drug treatment immediately and have not had such major symptoms since. But the day I take my medicine I do not feel so good and I am tired. That is exactly what limits my life, it is the most boring and difficult thing for me. Otherwise, I do not think much about my rheumatism.

I talked to my doctor about the side effects of the medicine, but I have come to the conclusion that right now it’s working okay, and since I have no symptoms of my RA, I think that’s OK.

I have adapted my everyday life around my medication days. The night I am most tired, someone else in the family will cook, so I can rest for a while. That's nice.

What are your needs and keys to everyday life?

Prioritize myself. I decided that right away. When I get a doctor's appointment, I do not even check with my calendar but say yes immediately. Maybe it’s not the best for my job, but they’ll have to cope. I need to prioritize myself now.

Take care of myself for the future. 58 years is absolutely no age, but I am still getting older and I want to go into old age brisk and full of confidence that I can do what I have been able to do so far as long as possible. And you never know what will happen: my RA is under control now but something else might come along and I need to keep it in check.

Create routines that are sustainable for me. The routines I created after my diagnosis feel better and more fun than before. I have never been someone who rides a bike or runs a lot, but I feel that I am in better physical shape now than I have ever been in my adult life. I received Physical Activity on Prescription (FaR) in connection with my diagnosis from my physiotherapist. I was advised to start swimming and it feels very good. I feel that my body gets its share in the week, so I can treat myself and drink a glass of good wine at the weekend. It gives me quality of life! 

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Any tips for someone who has had a similar journey as you?

Try to keep moving. I would like to give the tip that it is good to move. In the way you like and enjoy.

Take part in what you are offered. Take every opportunity that is offered and available. For example, do not miss out on physical activity on prescription (FaR). Maybe there is an activity you like or want to try? I did - and I got my annual card for half the price!

Find the right treatment for you. Don’t force yourself to do things you do not feel good about or which don’t have a good effect. There are other options to try. So talk and consult your doctor!

Think of yourself. There is no need to worry about your job and what your employer says, so make sure you get everything you need to feel good. Tell your job that you need to prioritize a doctor's appointment, for example. They win in the long run, because you’ll do things that make you feel better and make you more productive.

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