Tim Simpkins was in mourning—but not for the usual reasons. “I was losing the career of my dreams,” says the 57-year-old from Oakdale, Calif. who for decades fought fires for a living. “I loved being a fireman.”
Tim was 39 and in top physical shape when he developed the intense pain in his feet and wrists that threatened to end his life in uniform for good. “After a few years of misunderstood pain and depression, I got the news: It was RA,” Tim says. “I was devastated.”
Amid his darkness, though, there were moments of light. Tim’s “fire family” supported him as he stayed on the job, switching gears and developing the skills to become a fire inspector. His doctor became an ally and advocate, securing insurance coverage for expensive medication. Finally, Tim began to see the bright side of his situation. “It hit me: I needed to be thankful that the doctors and the medication gave me the last 12 years of my career and for my wife for sticking with me through the really tough times,” he says.
Now retired from the department, Tim works as a fire systems specialist for a major company. “With my meds, eating right, exercising and just plain not giving in, I am enjoying the best years of my life,” he says. “I overcame this disease with hard work and continued faith. Keep moving and never give in!”