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by "Arthritis Ashley" Updated 8/2021

Being a full-time patient living with a chronic illness is like having a job in and of itself. Many people do not realize that arthritis is the leading cause for disability in the United States, and that most RA patients in particular stop working full-time within just five years of diagnosis.

However, it doesn't mean that it is inevitable that rheumatoid arthritis will force you to stop working. You may just have to adapt and be flexible both personally and professionally when it comes to navigating this difficult disease. The fact of the matter is that RA may alter your career path and could ultimately affect your job performance in some cases. It can render you feeling helpless, hopeless, out of options, or unreliable. But, if you can find a job that is flexible and meets your needs, then you are in business -- perhaps literally.

Starting your own business is one option, if you can work out medical insurance. Other options include finding a company that offers flex time or telecommuting options. Working from home can be great for RA patients or anyone living with a disability.

Speaking of disability, don't fret: you may not have to go on disability or collect social security disability insurance just yet. Because of ADA -- the Americans With Disabilities Act -- more people are able to work with disabilities than ever before, since employers are required to make reasonable workplace accommodations and cannot discriminate against hiring someone with a disability or health problem. They should strive to make you comfortable and to help you succeed, within reason. So, read up on ADA, know the laws, and know your rights! FMLA is another acronym to become familiarized with. The Family Medical Leave Act can apply to oneself, too, if you run out of sick days or vacation days.

Being your own boss is great, but if you can't do that, hopefully you can find a job that is flexible and accommodating to meet your needs as a person living with RA.

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Just because you have rheumatoid arthritis doesn't mean that your professional life, or your dignity, should suffer. You can reach and attain goals, you can strive for your dreams, and you can still be productive, achieve, and accomplish! Your career may look a bit differently than you expected, but remember -- that's okay.

We can't always control the hand we are dealt, but we can control how we play it.

Best wishes and be well!

Love & Light Ashley