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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis, Deborah Norville on How She Cared for a Mother with RA : article

Deborah Norville, anchor of "Inside Edition," has been a TV mainstay for more than 20 years. But few know about her childhood challenges as caretaker for her mother, who suffered with debilitating rheumatoid arthritis. In this Lifescript exclusive, Norville opens up about coping with the disease and her fight against it…

Deborah Norville, 51, is no stranger to tough stories. As a reporter, she covered plane crashes, interviewed the families of 9/11 victims and investigated living conditions in prisons.

Her talents have been rewarded – she’s a two-time Emmy award winner. And for the last 15 years, she has made the news magazine show “Inside Edition” a ratings success.

In between, this married mother of three – Niki, 18, Kyle, 15, and Mikaela, 11 – has found time to write several books and crisscross the country as a motivational speaker.

Now Norville is taking on a new cause: rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic autoimmune disease that affects 1.3 million Americans; about 70% are women, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

Norville was just a child when her mom was diagnosed with RA, a painful, often debilitating condition that strikes women as young as 30.

With RA, joints – and sometimes the surrounding tissue – become inflamed, causing stiffness, swelling and occasionally deformed joints.
In this exclusive Lifescript interview, Norville talks about the challenges of RA, her life now and her new online talk show on the topic, “New Way RA.”

What was your mother’s struggle with rheumatoid arthritis like?
My mom went from being an incredibly active mother of four, raising her kids and working with Dad in the family business to being unable to get out of bed because the joint damage was so severe.

I was 10 years old when Mom was diagnosed – she was only 44. She died when I was 20 from complications of RA, most likely pneumonia.

Let me say that RA is not a killer. In her case, however, the joint damage was so severe and so pronounced that she was eventually bedridden. This was in the 1970s, when much less was known about the disease. There certainly weren’t as many treatment options as there are today.

How did your mom’s RA diagnosis affect you?
It turned [my world] upside down, put it in a jar, shook it up and spewed it all over the pavement. It was devastating. My parents got divorced during the period from dealing with her arthritis.

My mom referred to me and my three sisters (ages 12, 8, and 6 at the time) as her hands and feet. She would drive to the store and give us money and a grocery list. It was too painful for her to go in, so she’d stay in the car and we’d do the shopping.
I grew up cooking, vacuuming, doing all the things that moms do. When I left home and was living on my own, it was a real adjustment to scale down. I was so used to cooking everything in bulk.

Looking back, did her illness help you cope with adversity later?
Yes, but that’s true for anyone dealing with chronic illness or loss. For someone who has RA or another chronic illness and thinks, “Gosh, this is such a downer for my family,” the answer is, “Oh no, it isn’t!”

There are blessings that come from everything. You could probably make an argument that my mom’s illness was a factor in all four of us [sisters] becoming incredibly capable, successful women. I think my mom is probably aware that we achieved some of that because of her illness.

What advice would you give to families whose loved ones have RA?
First, I would advise them to learn more about the disease. I’m a huge believer that knowledge is power. The more I know, the better I can be. I think that’s very true for someone who has a family member with RA.

You also need to know that emotions play a big part in someone dealing with an illness. It sometimes requires a level of understanding and empathy that doesn’t come naturally.

There’s an old saying: “Custom will render it easy.” The more you do it, the easier it will be for you to empathize with a cranky parent, sibling, spouse or whoever is dealing with illness.
You’re hosting “New Way RA,” an online talk show about the disease. Why did you decide to do this project?
It’s a new approach to getting information out there. We’re all accustomed to talk shows. We all watch “Oprah.”

This one is being delivered online. It’s available when you have time to watch, which is probably late at night when most of us are dealing with those problems that make us anxious.

What you’re going to come away with is a sense of all the options – that there isn’t just one way this disease is going to play out.

The show features other well-known names. Who are they?
You’ll hear what Hayes Wilson, M.D., a rheumatologist, has to say about the medical approaches.

Ellen Schmueli, a fitness trainer, will talk about moving safely, staying flexible and staying fit while protecting your joints. You’ll hear from a career coach [Rosalind Joffe] who deals with workplace issues and chronic illness. There’s also a relationship expert [Laurie Ferguson, Ph.D.], because we all know that when someone is sick, it’s not just their body that hurts – it’s their heart [too].

Finally, there’s Ellie Krieger from the Food Network to talk about the nutritional aspects of RA.

Together, it really is a holistic, whole-life approach to dealing with RA.
How do you stay active?
Well, I'm not the poster child for cardiovascular activity, but I do walk really fast. People have a hard time keeping up with me.

It’s good I live in New York City. During the school year, I drop my daughter off at school and walk or jog back. That’s a little more than a mile.

When I get on the treadmill, I set it so I’m walking the pace I walk in NYC.

I also do a lot of physical work – gardening, lifting boxes, moving furniture. I keep a pair of 5-pound weights under my desk and, sometimes when I’m on the phone, I will pull them out and lift them up in the air.

You have two teens and a preteen in your household. Any parenting advice?
In doing some research for my new book (The Power of Respect, due out in October), I’ve learned something new from the nation’s top child experts: For every corrective instruction you give, you should hand out at least four positives. That’s something we as parents don’t get told or don’t focus on enough.

We’re really good at "You didn’t clean your room," and "You didn’t make your bed." What we don’t do is acknowledge the positives enough with, "I see you tried really hard," "I noticed you made your bed" and "Thank you."

Also, it’s really important to establish values and traditions from the get-go. When you’ve done that, you’ve created a rock. You’ve given your children an anchor to which they can always return.
They will understandably stray from the anchor because it’s the nature of growing up and separating.

You may have moments with a teenager when you speak absolutely understandable English and the answer you get back is a Neanderthal grunt. But that’s okay, you can read a lot into the tone of a grunt.

Knock on wood, I’ve got great kids. I’ve got a great husband. We take a team approach.

You always seem posed and relaxed on “Inside Edition.” Does anything ever ruffle you on air?
When I was in Chicago, I had a set fall down around me. I’ve had lights explode, giant bugs fly by, even naked people walk behind me while doing a live shot.

My bucket list of on-air disasters has been checked off. I guess it’s called job longevity.

A few years back, you wrote a book called Thank You Power: Making the Science of Gratitude Work for You. What is “thank you power”?
It’s harnessing the power of gratitude for your own benefit. It involves listing the things you are grateful for each day.

What I recommend in the book – and what I do myself – is jot down three things that were good that day.

What you write can be something as stupid as, “The lights were all green when I was running late to work.” It may be “I woke up before anyone else in the house and enjoyed a cup of coffee sitting on the back porch with the dogs."

What does writing it down do?
It gives you a way to remember [the good things]. It transports you back, resurrecting the emotional memory. That’s a really good thing when you’re down in the dumps and are thinking, “I’ve got this crappy illness and these pills aren’t working.”

If you can find things in your life that make you feel grateful, you are going to feel better. Maybe it’s writing down: "I’m so grateful for Janie. She’s a caring friend."

The book goes into more detail about the science and research, but gratitude can be a vibrant tool for helping a person manage the emotional aspects of chronic illness.

For more information, visit the “New Way RA” Web site. http://www.newwayra.com/

Get your own copy of Thank You Power: Making the Science of Gratitude Work for You.

# Source for article: Lifescript ; By Margie Markarian, Special to Lifescript : Published August 10, 2009

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