When psoriatic arthritis threatened to keep Richard Kandelac from drumming, woodworking and other active pursuits, he vowed to take control. Today, he’s loving life, thanks to the right medical pros, effective treatment and smart lifestyle tweaks.
— By Amy Capetta
On a typical day, you can find Richard Kandelac doing any number of activities — woodworking in his garage, working out on his three-wheel recumbent bike, leading a group of children on a snowshoeing excursion or, a particular passion, playing the drums. It’s enough to tucker out the average person, let alone someone with psoriatic arthritis! Yet the 68-year-old retired shop teacher from Ohio has been living with the often debilitating autoimmune disease for the last 30 years.
It all started with a red itchy spot on his scalp, which eventually manifested into flaky patches on his extremities, back and knees. A dermatologist diagnosed him with psoriasis, and Richard tried every treatment available: medicated creams, sun rooms, injections. “My biggest problem back then was embarrassment,” he admits. He wore long-sleeved shirts, which was difficult not only during the summer, but each day at school working on the machines.
Then, a few years later, when Richard started experiencing joint pain in his fingers and toes, a friend suggested he meet with a rheumatologist. That’s when he received a second diagnosis — psoriatic arthritis. “It was tough, and it caused a lot of stress in my life,” he states. “The stress added to both conditions, so it was a catch 22.”
“Don’t give up!”
For 20 years, Richard tried a slew of different meds, which brought varying degrees of relief. But when it was becoming nearly impossible for him to ride a bike or play the drums, he became determined to push for effective treatment. “I could do nothing and complain, or I could keep moving,” he says.
He consulted a medical team at the Cleveland Clinic, who prescribed a biologic medication that eases pain and helps prevent further joint damage. And after undergoing surgery in both thumbs, several fingers and toes, and fusion surgery in his wrists, he figured out how to adapt to new limitations: For instance, he traded his mountain bike for the recumbent cycle, he wears a tight pair of leather gloves to hold tools firmly, and he uses Gig Grip bands to keep his drumsticks in place. “People will say, ‘You’re still playing at your age?’ ” he laughs. “The answer is ‘yes’ because it makes me happy and keeps me young!”
His number one message: “Never give up, and don’t let psoriatic arthritis stop your life!”