From Devastated to Patient Leader: Eileen Davidson’s Rheumatoid Arthritis Story

On Episode 31 of the Arthritis Life podcast, Eileen shares her journey going from devastated and overwhelmed to being a patient leader, writer, advocate and research contributor in just six years. She also shares reflections on mental health, single parenthood, the importance of exercise and tips for symptom tracking.

Listen to the podcast here

Episode at a glance:

  • Eileen shares her rocky road to an RA diagnosis when he son was two years old
  • How Eileen’s blog led her to patient advocacy and research 
  • How symptom tracking helped Eileen reduce pain and improve fatigue
  • How exercise helps Eileen reduce pain and improve fatigue
  • What it’s like to be a single mom with RA
  • Reflections on  mental health while living with chronic illness

Speaker bios:

Eileen Davidson is a rheumatoid arthritis patient advocate from Vancouver British Columbia Canada. She volunteers with the Arthritis Research Canada patient advisory board and the Canadian Institute of Health Research – Institute of Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis patient engagement research ambassador. When not advocating she is writing about her experience with arthritis through Creaky Joints, Chronic Eileen or can be found being a mom to her son Jacob.

Cheryl Crow is an occupational therapist who has lived with rheumatoid arthritis for seventeen years. Her life passion is helping others with rheumatoid arthritis figure out how to live a full life despite arthritis, by developing tools to navigate physical, emotional and social challenges. She formed the educational company Arthritis Life in 2019 after seeing a huge need for more engaging, accessible, and (dare I say) FUN patient education and self-management resources.

This episode is brought to you by Rheum to THRIVE, a membership community Cheryl created to help people with rheumatic disease go from overwhelmed, confused and alone to confident, supported and connected. 

Episode links:

Medical disclaimer: All content found on Arthritis Life public channels was created for generalized informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Here’s the show breakdown:

1:40 – Eileen’s diagnosis story: many years of symptoms prior to her diagnosis when her son was two years old. 

5:50 – How Eileen’s symptoms affected her ability to take care of her baby. 

8:16 – Eileen’s devastation after receiving her diagnosis due to seeing her aunt suffer from severe rheumatoid arthritis and pass away the same week.

10:00 – How Eileen learned to trust her medical providers.

11:20 – What helped Eileen learn to cope with her RA and share her story publicly; how others responded to her story and how  writing introduced her to advocacy efforts.

15:00 – How others’ negativity motivated Eileen, and Eileen shares some of the positive responses to her writing.

17:45 – Eileen describes participating in arthritis research on symptom tracking using a FitBit, with a physiotherapist. Through tracking she started seeing patterns between menstrual cycle, sleep, exercise, rest.

22:30 –  Eileen learned the benefits of strength training and helped researchers explore barriers to patients participating in strength training. 

26:00 – Physical activity doesn’t have to look like formal exercise, it can be as simple as gardening, Zumba, yoga, or dancing.

29:00 – How the pandemic affected Eileen’s exercise routine and pain levels.

31:30 – How exercise helps Eileen with fatigue. 

34:00 – Eileen shares her journey with depression and mental health.

36:20– What’s helped Eileen cope with depression and anxiety from rheumatoid arthritis & pain.

38:00 – Eileen’s advice to other parents with rheumatoid arthritis and reflections on what her son has learned from having a mom with a disability.  

41:00 – How her rheumatoid arthritis has made her a better mom and changed her priorities

44:20 – The different forms patient advocacy can take.46:00 – Eileen’s final message: if you’re interested in getting involved in research, don’t hesitate!

Listen to the podcast here