Shirley Enis of Jacksboro, Texas, has decided to get involved with “Within Our Reach” because the campaign has the capacity to improve RA patients’ quality of life, alleviate long-term effects of RA, and ultimately ensure that future generations can enjoy life without RA.
“We always have a big family Thanksgiving, and I look forward to fixing a huge meal for everyone,” says Enis. While Thanksgiving is usually a time of joy for the Enis family, a Thanksgiving about five years ago was a time of uncertainty and concern.
“It was getting harder and harder to use my hands, and pain was becoming almost a constant,” Enis 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. I was constantly in pain and starting to lose hope.”
After seeing a rheumatologist, Enis was diagnosed with early onset RA and qualified to participate in a research group testing new 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 be the story’s happy ending, but not for Shirley and her husband, Hunter. While she is pleased with how the medications have helped her during the last five years, she is the first to acknowledge that she is one of a small number 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.”
Enis knows that she’s lucky to have responded well to the drug therapy, and she’s also optimistic that she hasn’t experienced any major side effects from therapy so far. RA isn’t as taxing on her body anymore, but 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 says. “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.”