Rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia – they are no walk in the park. I am headed towards three years since my diagnosis and I actually thought that I would be further along in terms of progress. I sure didn’t expect to still be in so much pain. I didn’t expect to be on so many medications. I actually was delusional enough to believe that I would be in remission by the time my disease hit the three year mark. I thought about that yesterday as I put ice on my sore arm that I just had gotten a corticosteroid shot in. I take one medication for fibromyalgia but I have four for RA – go figure. So much for remission!
RA is definitely not a disease for wimps. Those of affected by RA are not just suffering from RA; we are living with it. We deal with issues such as getting acceptance, self-esteem, managing our careers, caring for ourselves, the impact on our relationships, raising our children, caring for our parents, and so much more in addition to the symptoms and the pain that we endure daily. RA becomes a lifestyle and one that isn’t always bearable. As strong as I was before RA came into my life, I couldn’t have imagined myself being this strong. It takes a lot of strength to get up every day and put on “normal” face in a world full of healthy people when you are not “normal” or “healthy.”
Awhile back, I reviewed “A Delicate Balance: Living Successfully With Chronic Illness” by Susan Milstey Wells. A quote from her book that stands out for me reads: “Living successfully with chronic illness takes patience, humor, knowledge, support and time.” While it takes all things, it takes a lot of strength and courage to get through the daily pain and toll that RA takes on our lives. It is a daily process and every day, we find strength we never knew we had.
RA is a condition that isn’t talked about. The media doesn’t glorify RA like it does other diseases. Celebrities don’t raise big fundraisers for RA research nor do any groups rally for laws to protect the rights of RA patients especially on the job where it is most needed. For some reason, we associate a stigma with RA and most people have this misconception that it is just arthritis (in the words of my fellow RA blogger, Terry). Even other autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, have the necessary respect that make awareness possible. Not to downgrade the severity of lupus, but when people talk about it, they sympathize with the sufferers. When RA is mentioned, it is downgraded as “just arthritis” and the havoc it wreaks into our lives is unnoticeable.
It takes a lot of strength, if you ask me, to live with this kind of pain. I think it is equally hard to know that your condition is going to get worse and that the chance of remission is small. I don’t know how I really feel about that. I just know that all I can do is keep going because I know my condition will get worse. I remember over nine months ago sitting a hospital listening to my brother’s doctors telling us that his cancer would be get worse and the chances of remission were small. Compared to that, my battle may be uphill but it is not steep.
I just know that if I wasn’t so strong I wouldn’t be able to get through this. I think that all of us who suffer from this disease understand the courage we have to have in order to live this way. It definitely takes a lot of guts to live with pain, various symptoms, and the notion that we have to hide how much we are suffering. RA is a disease that we all know is not for wimps.
Check out my article “What does it mean to accept your chronic illness diagnosis” at Invisible Illness Week.