Battling through Rheumatoid Arthritis – Jodi Kunimoto
If anyone out there suffers from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) you would know how painful it is in your joints.
Jodi Kunimoto is one such person who was diagnosed at age 27 and has lived with the disease for almost 2 decades.
“I never expected to have to deal with a chronic pain ailment up until the diagnoses,” Kunimoto said. “I led a pretty active life and I was a leisure jogger and took aerobics classes three to four times per week before the onset of the disease.”
Kunimoto found it difficult to exercise shortly thereafter but made adjustments to deal with the pain.
“It was difficult to exercise for the pain and stiffness was unbearable at times,” Kunimoto said. “It felt like I had it in all my joints of my body, especially my knees, elbows, wrists, neck, shoulders, and even the joints in my jaw would hurt.”
Kunimoto would also have mood swings as a result of RA.
“I also had mild depression due to the physical limitations that I had experienced at the time,” she said. “I had also put on some weight because the steroids doctors prescribed to control the inflammation.”
Kunimoto found that getting out of bed in the morning was difficult and struggled with her normal exercise routine.
“I felt fatigued all day and after work, I’d need to sleep, I felt so tired,” Kunimoto said.
Although never participating in youth sports Kunimoto was active with the Honolulu based YMCA as a youth leader. “Where body mind and spiritual development were emphasized,” she said.
Today Kunimoto works at the University of Hawaii at Hilo as an Academic and Career Advisor.
“I would not consider my job stressful,” she said. “But the balance of working full time and care giving roles can be stressful as times.”
Kunimoto’s brother died last November due to glioblastoma (brain cancer). “When that happened my 84 year old mother, who was living with him had to uproot herself from Honolulu to come to live in Hilo,” Kunimoto said.
Balance of care has been made to consider adjustments for the entire Kunimoto household.
“It has been an adjustment for my daughter, spouse, and my mom,” Kunimoto said. “Balance of marriage, care for myself and full time work can take its toll.”
Exercise has become a stress breaker for Kunimoto.
“As a mom and care-giver I also give myself permission to take care of myself,” Kunimoto said. “During my early morning walk with my shelties I am spending time with my dogs, exercising them and me at the same time.”
After Kunimoto sees the family off for the day she starts her morning at the YWCA swimming pool.
“I head to either to UH pool for lap swimming or the YWCA pool for water aerobics,” she said. “If I head to the UH pool I may just also fit in a little bit of light strength training before diving in, just so I can upkeep/build the muscle around my joints.”
Kunimoto doesn’t allow the wet weather of Hilo to interfere with her workouts.
The weather in Hilo isn’t a barrier to my daily walks outside,” she said. “My family is consistently amazed how I avoid the heavy dose of rain on my walks and bike rides.”
She tells them that God knows that I need a walk so that He holds the rain off until she is done, according to Kunimoto.
“Actually though, I think I’ve learned like any other Hilo person to read the sky, and estimate how much time we have until it may rain and when you’re not sure about it, don’t all of us Hilo people carry umbrellas?”
As for diet Kunimoto is careful what she eats.
“I am careful about what I eat by limiting the amount that I eat,” she said.
“I eat what I like but have learned to put a limit on the amount I take in,” Kunimoto said. “I watch that the scale doesn’t go over the point limit of no return for me.”
Kunimoto has found it easier to maintain than to lose weight for she has had a yoyo affair with dieting.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a long term disease that leads to inflammation of the joints and surrounding tissue. It’s cause is unknown and it is an autoimmune disease which means the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, according to Kunimoto.
“I got to the stage where I finally accepted my fate,” she said. “The disease will not go away and I have to make a choice. I have to get a handle on it and manage it. This takes time and conscious effort, but I’ll get there.”
Kunimoto is making the most of what she has and looking on the positive side while exercising and maintaining a healthy diet.
“Having to face RA like any other chronic illness is probably one of the greatest lessons we will have in life,” Kunimoto said. “It has taught me not to take your good health for granted, so take care of yourself, listen to your body, be patient with yourself and others, slow down if you need to and don’t sweat the small stuff.
Kunimoto can empathize with those going through similar life challenge.
“I can relate to those going through a similar process of their own physical, psychological, and spiritual challenges in life,” she said.
And someday should you happen to see someone facing his own challenges in life remember to smile say “woof” and never shy away from “’’Running with the ‘’Big Dog.”
Email to Big Dog at firstname.lastname@example.org