As I wrote the title of this post, I tried not to laugh. My rheumatologist teases about how close I am to remission but I have been close for a while now and generally my symptoms get worse, not better. The research I continue to read on remission reports that at least 30% of RA patients do go into remission and generally these are the people with the mild to moderate form of the disease. That is the category I am in right now with a moderate form of RA. My rheumatologist brought the remission idea up at my last appointment. She said that if you have 15 minutes of morning stiffness and no tender or swollen joints for at least three months, you would be in remission. However, those short periods of no more than 15 minutes of stiffness and no tender and swollen joints have lasted no more than a week. I always end up going backwards.
According to Désirée van der Heijde, MD, a professor of rheumatology at the University Hospital Maastricht in the Netherlands, today’s newer treatments along with more aggressive use of older treatments such as methotrexate, nearly half of the people with RA can – and should – achieve remission. For most of us with RA, it seems that the chance of remission is unlikely. When I think of the idea, I think of something that lasts more than a few months and I don’t see that happening for me.
Here is the other side of the coin. So, if someone achieves remission from rheumatoid arthritis, how is it remission if they continue to take medication for the rest of their life to stay to keep disease activity from returning? I read somewhere that if a person stays in remission up to one year, drug free remission is possible. For those of us who have been taking medication to treat rheumatoid arthritis for quite some time, (years, in fact) we don’t see this being a possibility. If the chance is remission is similar to the chance of being struck by lightning, then drug-free remission is like finding the Holy Grail.
I know that this may sound a bit silly but for me, RA is part of who I am. I have had it for so long that I don’t know how to be without it. It has changed my life so drastically that I can’t imagine being the person I was before RA came into my life. I am not saying that I wouldn’t mind going back to living without pain but there are other things that have happened since my diagnosis that I don’t want to change. It is also part of my identity and while I know that I would evolve with the change should I be as lucky as remission, it is hard to see myself any different than I am now. I wouldn’t mind my life being easier but I am not sure what that would be like. Feeling the pain of RA reminds me that I am human and that being human means I feel pain.
In the beginning, I just wanted things back to the way they were before RA. So, here are I am almost four years after receiving a diagnosis, and this is how things are now. There is no back before RA because that is long in past. I have found my comfort zone and I am okay where I am not. A life without RA symptoms and pain is a small possibility but the reality is that either I stay where I am at or get worse. I have not really considered remission because it is probably like my law school dream. It will probably never happen. And you know what – I am really okay with that – no remission and not going to law school. RA took so much from me but it also allowed me to become someone that I would be proud to know. The person I was before RA took so much for granted.
Speaking of taking things for granted, my younger sister that had the fire called Monday and told me that they found a new place to live. She told me up until that fire, she had taken so much for granted. She didn’t realize that her possessions were merely things that were replaceable. What is most important isn’t replaceable and for one moment, she had completely lost sight of that. Rebuilding your life is a process that often times comes from a life changing event you never imagined. Whether it is a fire or an illness; it is all the same cycle and process. Once you get past the initial shock, you can work towards rebuilding your life.
I am set to move to my new place on January 31. I am ready to move forward and past the reasons why I never felt at home where I am currently at. Many years ago, I was laid off from a job I loved very much. I was a single mother trying to make ends meet so I took the first job offer presented to me. That job never felt like a place I belonged. I never found it in me to put up pictures of my kids or to bring in items to add to my workspace to make it feel like my own. Needless to say, I only stayed there four months before I took another position. Moving to my current place kind of felt like that. That annoying property manager didn’t help either but here I am moving to a new place that I am certain I can call home. I really feel good about this. I made arrangements for the movers and contacted the utility providers. Boxes are packed and more will be packed by Monday evening. I feel like this is yet another chapter in my life I am ready to put behind me. I am moving on. With or without you, Remission.