Rheum For Improvement is 1 year old!
One year ago I had planted the seed to launch Rheum For Improvement in the hope that I could change my symptoms and way of life; be healthier, happier and to pass some knowledge and experiences across to others in a positive way.
For the most part I do feel I have achieved that and although my following has remained very small when it comes to website traffic and social media, for someone who has no previous technological experience and normally a pretty full-on job, I am proud to have gained the support group that I have. Emails I have received from people across the globe have both humbled and inspired me and made me realise that what I started has truly been worth the extra effort.
Sometimes I have thought this was all started in a bit of naive error; I wasn’t on Facebook before Rheum For Improvement existed and I really don’t like it, I’d never designed a website or managed anything other than my work life (which is definitely not tech-savvy!), and I am not someone that sits and writes away an afternoon. However, as a platform for getting my messages across, Facebook is by far the most efficient and productive way so has been worth it, and everything else has been a positive learning curve!
Something important I have learned is that writing is cathartic and very helpful. Only in starting this website have I realised how much I don’t share verbally with my friends and family. I keep far more locked up in my head than I thought I did and it has often been easier to put thoughts into words on a screen that you think won’t be read by my people, than look into someone’s eyes and say it out loud. However, in putting my views across this has then made it easier to have those difficult verbal conversations, which are vital.
Secondly, unexpected support has come from far and wide - people I was at school with at the age of 4, an ex-boyfriend, a stranger from spinning class, the mother of a child who is currently under investigation for RA, random people who find my instagram from across the globe; all these people from different walks of life take their time to contact me and ask questions and give feedback or even thank me for what I have written. That has been very special and encouraged me to keep it up.
It hasn’t always been easy - I’m not a natural writer. My English teacher at school told me I’d be lucky to get a C in my GCSE because I “can’t write”. Then due to taking science-based A levels and a language that is no longer spoken, followed by a degree that I have never had to write long essays or a dissertation for, never really prepared me well for this. I know I’m not perfect at it and it takes a lot of internal arguing to convince myself that even one person will be interested in what I have to say, but actually you lovely lot have taken an interest and I just hope that some of the information I provide, or experiences I speak of can help one of you in a tiny way.
Over the next twelve months I hope to get into a slightly better routine. As I shall be working 9-5 days from next week (so exciting!) I am hoping I can schedule in regular website time rather than post-nights or a Saturday morning when I just grab a few hours before the day starts. Like piano practice and swimming, I want to incorporate it back into my normal working week in order to maintain momentum and keep the information and learning going.
So, what’s in store for the second year of Rheum For Improvement?
My new job is going to be rather academic and I am going to have to get better at using my computer and online resources (I’m going to be training in Clinical Radiology) but also I need to get better at critically appraising papers and research. It is not something I’ve ever been too good at and I would love to make my website more evidence-based and scientific for some posts, where necessary.
I would really like to look more into diet and nutrition for health prevention and lifestyle. I truly believe there is so much more every one of us can do to improve our quality of life and life expectancy, not just those of you like me with an illness. I’d like to learn more evidence and science behind it however, not jump on any bandwagon and preach about things I have no knowledge of!
I would like to sell some of the candles I have been making. There is a local Maker’s Market that runs monthly over the road in our local pub and they have kindly offered me some space. I make scented candles both using recycled containers but also from recycled bottles that I cut and sand, creating lovely gifts for birthday and Christmas. It would be great to create a Rheum For Improvement logo (all suggestions very welcome!) and be able to sell my candles with all profits being donated to an arthritis charity.
Those of you have read this far are friends, family, colleagues and a few others who have found me through hashtags and forum posts. I love this and it has made it easier for me to communicate how I have felt. This week I left my job as an Emergency Medicine doctor and moving away from these people is going to be so hard but it makes me slightly relieved to know that so many of them have supported my website and will continue to stay in touch through my writing and new experiences to come. Moving on to a new job also means that I can extend my personal and professional experiences with a wider audience. To do this I shall continue writing on other forums and encourage others to visit my social media and website for information, but ensure that I’m learning more about the technology so that I can produce the best quality work.
In the same vein I am excited that within the next year I have been asked to do three talks - one is through Cure Arthritis, who are now part of Arthritis Research UK to speak to teenagers with Rheumatoid Arthritis about careers, and to hopefully show them that anything is possible!
The other two talks are through my own school - one will be careers-based but the other is about me, my life and experiences I have had with Rheum For Improvement. I love doing this and hope that when I go down to London for the ARUK event I can meet lots of new people and learn from them too. Having recently been on Radio 5Live and BBC1’s Newsbeat, I think I could get into doing more for awareness of the disease.
I appreciate starting a new job, buying and renovating a house, and getting used to a new way of life is going to be really tough. If I can achieve all of that and still keep going with Rheum For Improvement then I just hope that the quality of what I produce is good enough for you all! You must always tell me if it isn’t!
Now I would like to say thank you to every single person that has ever visited my website, liked a photo, commented on a post, or taken the time to contact me about anything I have written. I felt very strongly that I could potentially do some good, but lacked a lot of confidence in executing it. Hearing such kind words from you this last year really spurs me on and gives me the push I need to produce good writing but also be a better version of myself and continue to be determined to see past my arthritis. Sometimes we need to give ourselves a little bit of credit, and you have all helped me get through a very difficult year.