For a while, low-level malaise was more the rule than the exception for Seamus. When his RA flares, he feels it in his right hand, arm, shoulder and ankle, and his left knee and hip. “If I’m really bad, I’ll feel it in my feet,” he says.

But Seamus is resourceful. “I try to avoid bending down and reaching inside the refrigerator. I don’t pick up heavy things, like stockpots. If my hand bothers me, I don’t use a knife. I try to do more teaching than hands-on stuff.”

He also tries not to work 15-hour days. It isn’t easy. “When I tell colleagues I have to go home, I can tell sometimes they feel like I am letting them down,” he says. “But I need to be very clear about what I can and can’t do.

“I may look like a completely healthy, got-my-stuff-together young man,” the 38-year-old adds. “But every day is trouble for me when I get out of bed. If you are physically disabled in a way that is visible, it's easier for people to understand. There is this expectation that I am fine.”

Feeling Better, Giving Back

Since April 2010, when Seamus first spoke with Arthritis Today, his health has improved markedly.

He started taking a biologic drug in addition to a traditional disease-modifying antirheumatic drug. He also takes a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication as needed.

“The new biologic medicine really helps me deal with chronic pain and stiffness,” he says. “I have gotten a lot better.”

Perhaps because of that he decided to chart a new course. He left Boqueria in July 2010. In August 2011 he opened a new restaurant, Tertulia, in Manhattan’s West Village, showcasing Spanish-inspired dishes. Arthritis Today caught up with Seamus again the morning after the opening. He was exhausted, punctuating his comments with generous yawns, but elated. “It went well,” he says. “We had a surprisingly large crowd despite rainy, nasty weather.”

He also released his cookbook, Seamus Mullen’s Hero Food: How Cooking With Delicious Things Can Make Us Feel Better, (Andrew McMeel Publishing, May 2012). And as if life couldn't get better, there’s a wedding in his future – he is engaged to a woman who works in restaurant design.

He is also bicycling – a lot. “Thanks to the biologic, I have been able to return to exercise,” he says. He rides 45 to 50 miles per day six days per week, logging 200 to 300 miles a week. “Once I started exercising, I felt better and stronger,” he says.

That’s how he feels when he’s working in the kitchen, too.