Hope for the future
“We always have a big family Thanksgiving and I look forward to fixing a huge meal for everyone,” shares Mrs. Shirley Enis of Jacksboro, Texas. While Thanksgiving is usually a time of joy for the Enis family, one Thanksgiving about five years ago instead became a time of uncertainty and concern.
“It was getting harder and harder to use my hands and pain was becoming almost a constant,” Shirley recalls. “By Thanksgiving of that year, I could barely lift a pot or pan, let alone prepare the feast I wanted to share with my family. I knew something was wrong.”
“The hardest aspect for me was the sense that I was losing my independence. I was supposed to be in the prime of my life, enjoying my retirement with my husband, kids and grandchildren. But, I was constantly in pain and starting to lose hope.”
After seeing a rheumatologist, Shirley was diagnosed with early onset rheumatoid arthritis and qualified to participate in a research group testing new RA drug therapies. “Almost immediately, I noticed a difference,” she says. “My pain began to subside and my strength returned. I started feeling normal again.”
For many, this would the part of the story where we'd cue the happy ending. Not for Shirley and Hunter Enis. While Shirley is pleased with how the medications have helped her over the last five years, she is the first to acknowledge that she is one of a small percentage of success stories.
“I was told before entering the clinical research trial that some patients do not respond as well to treatment, if at all,” she says. “I was also informed about potential and possible side effects of the drugs I would be taking and that was almost as scary as getting my RA diagnosis in the first place.”
Shirley knows that she's lucky to have responded well to the drug therapy, and she's also optimistic that, so far, she hasn't experienced any major side effects from therapy. But, while RA isn't as taxing on her body any more, the disease still weighs heavily on her mind.
“I will probably be on drug therapy for the rest of my life, and I have accepted that” she states. “But, I don't want my daughters or my grandchildren to ever have to deal with this disease or worry about the long term effects of treatment. I won't accept that for their futures.”
She and Hunter decided to look for ways to support advances in RA research and treatment. When they learned about the ACR Research and Education Foundation's Within Our Reach campaign, they immediately decided to lend their support.
"I would love to think that there could be a cure for RA available for the next generation of patients,” she states. “My rheumatologist saved my life. I am indebted to the rheumatology community, so I am more than glad that Hunter and I are able to support their efforts to fight and defeat this disease.”