The one-year anniversary of my official RA diagnosis is coming near. It was a few days prior to Thanksgiving last year that I heard my doctor say the words “Rheumatoid Arthritis.” I suffered silently for years going from doctor to doctor trying to figure out what was wrong with me. I was told I was depressed, and was handed prescriptions for Paxil and other anti-depressants and given referrals to psychologists. For years, my doctors treated my symptoms and never looked at the whole picture.
Then one day, only days after giving birth to my now 14 month old, I woke up and could not walk. Both my hands were rolled up into fists, and I had to pry them apart. The first that came to my mind was a stroke. It took me about a week to fully get back the ability to walk and move around my house. I went into to see my doctor a week later and she took blood tests and x-rays. The next day, she called me she suspected rheumatoid arthritis and referred me to a rheumatologist.
I remember putting the phone down, sitting on the floor, hugging my knees, and crying hysterically. I wasn’t crying because of my diagnosis. I was crying because, finally after ten years of symptoms, feeling sick every day of my life, and horrible pain, someone told me it was not all my head. Someone listened and figured it out. This time, I knew for sure that my doctor was not wrong. When you suffer in pain and in ill health for years, all you want is the answer – the right answer.
I went through all the emotions – the relief, the denial, the grief, and then, the acceptance – in less than two weeks time. I know what RA is capable, and there are days when I just want to give up, but I don’t. I have a lot of people depending on me to not let my condition define me. I live strong for them and not necessarily for me. We all fight for something – I fight for my marriage and my I fight for my children, and I keep fighting.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a battle I fight every day, emotionally and physically. There are times at the end of my workday where I can barely walk a quarter of a mile to the parking garage. I have to stop and rest because my legs do not want to move and my lower back and hips feel like they are ready to give up. Sometimes, I can barely carry the baby a few feet, and some days, I am strong enough to run a marathon. That is what RA is like – it is like living in a war torn country – you fight everyday for your survival and some days are hard and some days are easier.