On the Move to Fight Rheumatoid Arthritis


The sun may not have risen yet, but that was no matter for Nancy Haacke. She could be found sweating away at a 5am gym class or running five miles with her husband on any given morning. But when the regular muscle stiffness that comes after a hard workout transformed into a consistent, debilitating pain, Nancy knew something was wrong. After visiting a local doctor, she was surprised to learn she had rheumatoid arthritis

An advocate of living a healthy lifestyle through nutrition and physical activity, Nancy asked the doctor if any alternative lifestyle choices, such as nutritious food or physical activities, could help lessen the pain. Her doctor quickly shut her down, informing her that if she was going to use alternative medicine, he would refuse to be her doctor. Appalled by the doctor’s reaction, Nancy began to search for a new healthcare system that would value her opinions. University of Utah Health was her next destination and thankfully her search ended there.

“It was like the difference between night and day,” says Nancy. “University of Utah Health doctors were kind, not putting down my ideas or thoughts on how I wanted to be treated.”

Nancy first turned to Christopher Jackson, MD, a rheumatologist at U of U Health. Jackson sat down and listened to her concerns, explaining that she did not have to choose between medicine and alternative methods. Rather, she could pair her treatment with a prescribed medicine that would halt the joint damage with a healthy lifestyle. After taking Jackson’s advice, she noticed the symptoms of her rheumatoid arthritis subsiding.

Impressed by her treatment, Nancy decided to switch every doctor she went to over to University of Utah Health's system. Before long, she was surrounded by a whole team of U of U Health physicians dedicated to her health, who treated everything from her feet and sinuses to her hands and arthritis.

Along with receiving regular treatment for her arthritis, Nancy also underwent orthopedic surgery to repair the shredded tendons in her right foot, and had an arthritic cist removed that could have cost her the fingers on her hand if left untreated. She finds that her hand is better now than before the arthritis and her foot is now fully functional.

“I encourage people all the time to go to University of Utah Health,” says Nancy. “I tell them that I have had bad experiences, and I have tried every doctor. But none compare to the doctors here. They are caring, they listen, they talk to you about your concerns, give good advice, and genuinely care about you.”

Now, ten years after her diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis and multiple surgeries later, Nancy is back in action.

“I may not be able to run this time, but I am riding my bike, I am walking, I am staying active,” says Haacke. “I am pushing myself more and more each day.”

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