"My professional ballet career began at 17 and screeched to a halt three years later. One morning after a tough rehearsal, my knee was sore and swollen to the size of a small melon. I was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, a form of inflammatory arthritis that researchers think is hereditary. My lifelong dream of being a pro dancer was slipping away."
Making the Cut
"I had three surgeries to correct damage from the arthritis, including torn cartilage in my knee. I figured my dancing days were over, so I enrolled in college while I recovered. After I finished rehab, my therapists said I could dance. I signed up for ballet and modern-dance classes at school."
In Her Groove
"Modern dance became my passion, and I felt I had to give a professional career another try. I joined Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 2005. I inject myself with Humira, a prescription arthritis drug, once every other week. I also eat a gluten- and dairy-free diet, which my doctors recommend to help control my symptoms. I still feel I was born to dance!"
Swim! Walk! Bike! Downward Dog!
These four activities can help alleviate pain from rheumatoid arthritis, says Patience White, M.D., a medical expert for the Arthritis Foundation. About three-quarters of the 1.5 million Americans affected by RA are women, most of whom receive a diagnosis between ages 30 and 60.