Free to be me

Mike Bellhouse, 57, a first-time grandfather, has had rheumatoid arthritis for 20 years but, determined to keep it from ruling his life, was managing the disease effectively. Then he got a double whammy with a diagnosis of osteoarthritis 11 years ago.

At the onset of rheumatoid arthritis, “I felt it first in my feet and within months, it was in my knees, wrists and then every joint in my body,” he says. “It was a shock and life seemed really upside down.” An avid participant in rugby and curling, he was able to continue curling, despite his RA, for four years, but then had to give it up. A risk management consultant with an insurance company in Winnipeg and the father of two teenagers at the time, Mike’s life had hit a snag. “I wasn’t able to play sports with my kids,” he explains “and I couldn’t get to work as early as before.”

“You do get pretty bummed out at first,” he says, “but it’s not a life sentence. It’s a lifestyle change.” And Mike is an example of someone who has made sure it didn’t become a life sentence for him.

With a fitness program that includes working out at home and aquacise classes twice a week, he keeps active, which is the best antidote for the progression of arthritis. And, to keep his spirits high, he joined the Gilbert and Sullivan Society as well as an all-male choir singing Scottish songs.

He volunteers to help others

In addition, he made a commitment to help others with arthritis. After moving from Calgary to Winnipeg in 1993, he called the Arthritis Society and signed up to lead the Arthritis Self Management Program (ASMP) and now trains others to lead the program. Currently, he is Chair of the Board for the Manitoba/Nunavut Divisional Advisory Board of The Arthritis Society.

TYLENOL® ARTHRITIS PAIN has been very important to his life, in being able to do what he enjoys. He didn’t think he would be able to take a trip to Turkey last year with his son because of the pain in his knees from osteoarthritis. “TYLENOL® ARTHRITIS PAIN got me through it,” he says. “I couldn’t have gone without it. We had a really tight connection in Detroit with only five minutes between flights, so really had to move fast.” And he also notes, laughing, “Turkey is very hilly for walking.”

As a leader of ASMP and in his role as board chairman, he not only manages his disease, but helps others develop a sense of confidence and lead a full life. “It’s peer-to-peer sharing,” he says, “and that helps everybody.”

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