The Beginning of my Journey-
Several years ago, when I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, I never thought I might be grateful for this disease. Indeed, gratitude was the furthest thing from my mind. I was in acute pain. My hands would not straighten out for many, many hours after I woke, if at all. My feet felt like they were on fire all of the time. I had been through a series of cortisone injections for months because different joints and muscles had hurt and we had been treating everything from tendinitis to bursitis to “frozen shoulder syndrome”. Now I had a very smart, very trusted nurse practitioner telling me that I had an autoimmune disease, for which there was no cure, that would continue to cause me pain for the rest of my life and based on my rheumatoid factor levels, it was a very aggressive form which would probably land me in a wheelchair before I was 45 if we didn't start aggressive treatment. Gratitude? Are you kidding? My mind was spinning!
I went home and in the weeks that I waited to meet my new Rheumatologist I began researching RA. I read everything I could on the disease. I went through several of the stages of grief- Shock, Denial, Anger, Depression. I found message boards dedicated to RA and other chronic pain illnesses. While the message boards were fonts of information which helped me immeasurably to be prepared for my appointment with my rheumatologist, they also made me feel sad, scared and full of self pity as I read story after story of people living with the pain and suffering from this disease every day for years. The more I read, the worse my state of mind became because I saw the same posters over and over describing how miserable their lives were and how much they had lost because of their disease.
I met with my rheumatologist and we began treatment. He agreed that my RA was particularly aggressive and offered me treatment plans. He was very nice and very open with me but not particularly inspiring of hope. Businesslike is a good way to term his bedside manner. I didn't know of anyone else who had this disease so I spent a lot of my time reading stories from people in despair, people who had given up and let their disease take over their lives