I am incredibly honored that Arthritis Today magazine chose me to be one of their Voices for the Arthritis Awareness Month issue. The question they asked was:
What Has Having Arthritis Taught You?
You can see my reply in the link above. They gave us parameters but I could have gone on for days. I never imagined that, on the fateful day that my LPN looked at me and said "We are going to run some tests but I am pretty sure that you have Rheumatoid Arthritis" that my life would change so significantly just as related to that statement. It was like diving off of a cliff and hoping that I don't hit the reef. Before my diagnosis I had never been cognizant of RA, even though I later found out that my Great Aunt lived a very long life with RA. So, beyond my official reply, here are a few of the things I have learned.
- Body parts can permanently distort all on their own. When I was diagnosed, I felt relatively "normal". Now, I look down at my hands and my index fingers are rotating in toward my middle finger and my pinkies don't straighten and if I straighten my hands, the pinkies don't come in with the rest of the fingers any longer. My feet are the opposite- my little toes and the next one are beginning to rotate out and the next is also bending inward. I don't like the word "deform" but that's what's beginning to happen. The positive part of the lesson is- it doesn't hurt, it just "is".
- One illness can become two-three-four or more. It's been a very, very hard lesson to learn as I have been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, then Degenerative Disc Disease and then Rheumatoid Lung Disease. I have been very open with the fact that beginning with DDD I started asking "What could possibly be next?" Each one has taken longer and been harder to deal with, both mentally and emotionally. The positive part of the lesson is- I did manage to wrap my head around them and continue to be productive even when I felt like just crawling in my bed for a while.
- Health insurance is a bear to navigate. Prior to 2005 I only used my medical insurance for routine things like annual physicals and OBGYN visits or the occasional illness or accident. After RA- well, insurance has been and continues to be a learning experience. Am I the only one who remembers when you went to the doctor or the hospital and received one bill? Now the bills are endless as they come from the facility, the doctor, the lab etc. At some point, I may just figure out the rhyme or reason, but by then it will probably change. The positive part of the lesson is- I am still currently able to work to afford my health insurance and the co-pays and balances.
- There are all sorts of treatments we can try before we get to something drastic. This is a HUGE positive. Though I have been resistant (okay, let's be honest-I've been downright pissy) about having to go the Pain Management route, next week the doctor is going to either do Radiofrequency Ablation on my lower back or, if it's not viable, give me a big fat epidural. One of these two should give me some relief from the relentless pain. I would LOVE to have the whole summer without back pain. That would let me work with Fen on leash training (she HATES walking on a leash) and take Auggie for walks as well. I haven't been able to do that in a long time. At the moment, around the cul de sac is about as far as we can go. Epidural would last, possibly a few months. RFA can last 6 months to a year. How hopeful is THAT! Should I be one of those anomolies that the treatements for whom the treatments don't work, I think it will be time to start looking into holistic remedies. I know that acupuncture works for a week or so. Maybe I will check and see how much a package of treatments cost. There's a float center being built as I type. Josh says that floating is better than massage for relaxing the muscles and joints and I still have to gift certificates from Jim for Christmas to use. Perhaps that's the way to go next?
That's just a few of the things I have learned but the biggest lesson of all is gratitude. When I was diagnosed there was no way that I would have seen the positives in these lessons so easily. Now, I actively look for it so that I can be grateful. It helps me navigates the stresses, it keeps me from spiraling into depression and helps me get out of my head when I am feeling overwhelmed and it allows me to see how very blessed I am despite my difficulties. I am the first to admit that I am still learning gratitude every day but I am working the journey as best I can and I can see what a difference it's made for me.
Now I pose the question to you- what have your difficulties- be it RA or another challenge- what have they taught you?