The well-known painting instructor and artist Bob Ross was famous for saying, “All you need to paint is a few tools, a little instruction, and a vision in your mind.” That is indeed what 34 year old Megan Rieff was known for. Megan was typically finishing at least one personal masterpiece every month, teaching K-12 students, and spending many weekends at art festivals selling her work. Her painting career was thriving. Born in Oklahoma City, but raised in Millsap, Texas, Megan recently moved back to Oklahoma City to work on her master’s degree. Megan then started displaying her art in the Paseo district. She has also owned horses her entire life and loves to ride. However, Megan’s lifestyle was changing because she just didn’t feel well anymore.
About five years ago, Megan began experiencing fatigue. She wondered if she was stressed, if she needed to eat healthier, or rest more often. She also spent many days wondering if something was wrong because she didn’t feel like herself. In March of 2018, Megan started a new 48” x 36” painting of a cowboy on his horse. She eventually named the piece, “Ready to Work.” The irony of the art title was that Megan was anything but ready to work. “I tried to paint, but I seriously felt like I didn’t know how to do it,” says Megan. “I was fighting a constant brain-fog and mental fatigue along with vision problems, shakiness, and joint pain in my wrists, fingers, and elbows. I knew something wasn’t right.” Megan stopped painting and she was no longer enjoying her horses or the outdoors. “I preferred to stay in bed most days and stare at the painting I wasn’t painting,” says Megan. “I don’t know if I could have gotten out of bed if there was a fire in my house.” Megan was Googling her symptoms all the time; looking for answers.
Megan finally sought out help from her healthcare provider in Del City. They ran a full panel of lab tests and also referred Megan to Oklahoma Arthritis Center in Edmond. Megan was scheduled to see Dr. Sterling Riggs. She was initially sad because she had hopes of seeing another highly recommended provider at Oklahoma Arthritis Center. In the past, Megan felt other doctors had written off her concerns and made her feel as if she was imagining her symptoms. She was pleased to quickly realize Dr. Riggs was different. “Dr. Riggs did not disappoint,” says Megan. “He did such a great job listening to me. He was very understanding and told me what I was experiencing was not uncommon in people with autoimmune issues.”
Dr. Riggs was the first person to x-ray Megan’s hands, something other doctors had never done. He also noticed her inflammatory markers had been fluctuating. The damage was consistent with rheumatoid arthritis.
That’s when the light bulb came on for Megan. She knew her aunt had the exact same diagnosis and other family members had autoimmune diseases as well. Megan was so relieved to finally get answers and help.
Dr. Riggs started Megan on the medication, Plaquenil. After two months, she was feeling better, but still had hand pain and fatigue. Dr. Riggs decided to add an additional medication, Methotrexate. That’s when Megan really noticed improvement in her symptoms. After six months of treatment, Megan started feeling substantially better. After a year, she was feeling like her old self again; the brain fog lifted, her energy improved, and the joint pain subsided.
April 2019 marked one year of treatment for Megan. The painting she started on March 26, 2018 of a cowboy and his horse was finally completed on September 17, 2018 after six months of care with Dr. Riggs. “That painting sat around for months,” says Megan. “I never thought I would finish.” The title seems appropriate now; Megan is truly “Ready to Work.” She is back to her normal life painting, teaching, and preparing for gallery shows.
Megan gave a print of “Ready to Work” to Dr. Riggs. “When I finished the painting, it seemed appropriate to give a print to him,” says Megan, “because he helped me finish it.” Dr. Riggs proudly displays the art at his desk that reminds him how important it is to help others. Megan is much more conscientious of her life now. She wants to spend her time wisely, enjoy it to the fullest, travel more, enjoy her horses, and of course, paint until her heart is content. You can see more of Megan’s artwork on her website, meganrieff.com.