The Making of RARA

The idea for creating a blog was birthed in 2016, while I was recovering from knee surgery and had a lot of alone time. In 2017, the concept of Rising Above rheumatoid arthritis began to manifest. By this time I felt ready to share my story and wanted to help those living with rheumatoid arthritis, chronic illness and disability. Back when I was diagnosed in 2004-2005, I didn’t feel like I had anything worth sharing. I felt inexperienced and didn’t know how I would be perceived. I had the notion that in order to be of service to myself and others, I had to have more experience living with this disease. Little did I realize then, that I already had a lot to share and offer. Only after I summoned up the courage, gained more confidence in my abilities and increased self-love for myself, did I start to create my ideas into physical form. Part of the reason was also not being ready to have my story known. I kept it hidden and only told close family and friends for years. Over a decade later, here I am!

Why the name? For months I pondered what to call my website and blog. Several notebook pages and post-its later, I came up with the name. Rising above for me symbolizes; clarity, freedom and solution. These three aspects are partly what I am striving for on my quest to heal from this illness.  Being able to see the light through any darkness, and achieve ultimate peace, happiness and acceptance is a powerful way to not let this disease control me. Just like the Phoenix that rises up from the ashes, I too felt that I have risen up from my trials and tribulations with more resilience, tenacity and strength than before.

In addition to creating this to encourage those living with similar health struggles, I wanted to provide a place of support, connection, community, hope, inspiration, courage and healing. Here you will be able to find all types of curated advice, tips and tricks, researched based information, resources, opinion based articles, general information, real-life stories, advocacy, awareness, recipes, nutrition, mind-body-soul connection, humor and more!

Behind the Lens

The hardest part of preparing for my photoshoot was figuring out what to wear to best represent my authentic self. While RARA is inspired by my life living with rheumatoid arthritis, chronic illness, a joint replacement, disability, my healthy lifestyle and overall interest in health, there is one thing that is not so obvious. People may agree or disagree with me but I always felt that my illness is a part of me, not who I am. Since my diagnosis over a decade ago I have changed but has it changed all of me? No.

Here is how I see it: Take a minute to picture a red apple that has the perfect color, shape and shine- untouched. Now lets say this apple is tossed around a few times. It gets bruised in a couple places. Then you leave it outside on accident and some bugs bite into the thin layer of skin. Then you decide instead of throwing it out, you still want to use the apple for something and take a knife to cut off the holes. After all this trauma, the apple has still maintained its core or essence. That is how you can look at any situation in life- especially when dealing with your health struggle. The core in the apple, is similar to our inner light. We often times have the power to not let circumstance dim our inner light. Any life-changing experience is another chapter in your book, that you can either let define you in a negative way- like in an apple the core can be impacted by bad influences such as mold or help you evolve into a better version of you.

So, I wanted to blend the two worlds of what has still maintained of my essence (core nature), interests, passions, hobbies, etcetera, prior to diagnosis and the part of me that manifested after diagnosis which has catapulted me into new interests and the person I have become today. I have incorporated shades of blue, purple and gold all across my website to represent arthritis and autoimmune arthritis. Blue has been the standard ribbon color choice to represent arthritis for a long time. Eventually the arthritis warrior community has added colors of purple and gold to symbolize the far-reaching effects many people are unaware of. Simply, arthritis can create issue all over the body- not just the musculoskeletal system. Which is why for example, some some refer to rheumatoid arthritis, as rheumatoid disease.

I opted to wear a blue dress from the BB Dakota fashion line. When I saw the company’s description that it, “operates from the belief that life is a series of stories you tell, and a life with style is a story well told,” I just knew it was the right choice for me. My bright blue earrings from BaubleBar represents the “fire” type feeling, pain and inflammation, I have experienced in my joints on and off throughout the years. I love clothes that make me feel confident and comfortable. These two things are what some people with arthritis, chronic illness or disabilities often find themselves having a hard time with. I know I do. Searching for clothing and products that can accommodate to us on those off days, when we still want to feel sexy and confident (and not be in sweatpants and messy buns all day 24/7, which I have done but led to feeling frumpy) can be a challenge. It can be enough to turn someone into a down-right investigative reporter and researcher when it comes to shopping for various items. If you need help getting the details on something- I’m your girl.

Photographs by AJ Kane Photography @ Loft 305
MUA Martha Landeros Contreras
 
*RA balloon pictures were photographed by Lex Alexander Photography

Follow That Star

The Impossible Dream song says it the best, “This is my quest, to follow that star.” When it came time to get behind the camera lens for the RARA website and blog, I wanted to capture the essence of what that star meant to me.

One of the questions I pondered is- what do you think of when you see a star? A lot of times people see one and say to “make a wish” Why do we wish on them though? It’s because upon looking at stars they bring us a message of inner guidance, inspiration, hope and healing. There is something so enchanting, mystical and unknown about the stars in the sky, that I felt it resembled how my journey with arthritis has been- enlightening and downright scary. It’s as if a sense of beauty can emerge from the turmoil in our lives.

Those living with chronic illness or disability, dream ‘the impossible dream’ because we are often told there is no cure in sight. It can feel like we are left to scramble in the dark alone. Only when we listen to that internal voice can we find a way towards that particular star we are following.

For me the star symbolizes all the above but also to live a quality life. Remember, stars can’t shine without darkness. We need the dark in order to appreciate everything that shines. Most importantly, we need the dark times to help us realize what it is we truly want but most importantly, need.