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Announcer: There are more than 100 different forms of arthritis. In our next story, we look at rheumatoid arthritis which doesn't just affect the joints. It occurs more often in women and it can have a devastating effect on the whole body.
Gay Bloom: First, there's the visual observation where you will be looking at the joint. OK, you don't want to push too hard, especially on somebody like me.
Doctor: The toes just seem like they're out of joint.
Gay: Yeah, they are -- everybody is amazed.
Announcer: Gay Bloom was just a teenager when she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
Gay: When you palpate you're feeling for heat, tenderness
Announcer: Now at 55, Gay is a patient instructor for new doctors at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She's helping them recognize the symptoms and learn the complexities of her disease.
Gay: Rheumatoid arthritis is an immune system disease. Ask your patient how they function or what problems they have with functioning because that is the worst part of this disease.
Announcer: Despite flare-ups of her arthritis, Gay has always worked full-time. Today, in addition to teaching, she's a motivational speaker.
Gay: And I think a positive attitude is what has helped me the most with my life, it's saying, "Yes, I can." The whole world has said, "No, I can't." But I say, "You wanna bet?" And I think that's a more powerful drug than the one that you actually take with a glass of water.
Announcer: At times, she does need the help of others. She and her husband, Neil, have grown children. They have been married for 34 years.
Neil: I guess there's kind of an inside feeling of her being sort of like a porcelain doll -- very fragile -- and so I always feel the need to want to do those things to care for her and protect her and so on and so forth, and I think that becomes very aggravating for her because she is a very independent thinking person and she wants to be able to do those things for herself.
Gay: It's a very misunderstood disease. It takes away my independence. It takes away my life as I knew it. But on the other hand, it's given me a life that I never expected -- something that's been absolutely incredible in the way that I've been able to get out and communicate to people that you never have to give up no matter what the problem is -- no matter what the situation is.
Announcer: Effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis just didn't exist when Gay first developed the condition. Unfortunately, once the damage is done, it can't be reversed. Now, however, there are new, disease-modifying anti-rheumatic medications, which work directly on the immune system to slow down or even stop the attack on the joints and organs.