~What it means to me to battle RA~
Wikipedia defines Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) as a chronic, systemic inflammatory disorder that may affect many tissues and organs, but principally attacks flexible (synovial) joints. (click here for More)
I say it’s ‘no fun’. Some days it’s ‘crappy’ and on others it’s…even worse.
The biggest misconception about RA is that it’s like all the other forms of arthritis. (There are over 100. How crazy is that?!) I can’t tell you how many times someone has asked me about my RA only to tell me that they have arthritis in –insert joint here– from playing sports, age, a car wreck, or other external forces. I know it’s uncomfortable and it hurts, but it isn’t RA.
RA is an autoimmune disorder, which means the immune system has gone whack and started targeting healthy tissue. The body is attacking itself.
There are a lot of treatments for RA, but no cure. And RA varies in severity from person to person.
My RA actually started as a virus, which jump-started my immune system. The virus ran its course, but my immune system continued to fight. I sat in the stockroom of the store where I worked and watched my hands swell. In two days, I couldn’t wear my rings, bracelets, or shoes. I couldn’t hold a shoe box and barely had the strength to lift a cup of coffee. Walking was excruciatingly painful. I went to the doctor for testing and when the blood work came back, he told me I had an “elevated” RA factor. A ‘normal’ person’s level was around 19. Mine was 250. Yikes! So after several trips to the rheumatologist (specialist) I was finally diagnosed almost a year later. (I know it seems like a long time, but this is pretty common. Rheumatology is a very gray area of medicine. So put down the pitchforks, I actually have very good doctors.)
Why am I telling you all of this? I dunno, it’s just a part of who am I. A person cannot be in constant pain all day everyday and not have it affect them in some manner. I hope that I’ve accepted my condition well–though I admit I went through a mourning process for my pre-RA life.
Everyday presents new challenges. But as soon as I start feeling sorry for myself, I get in the grocery line behind a vet who’s lost a limb, or I see someone with RA that has crippled them into a comma. When this happens, I have to admit that my life–my quality of life–is not horrible, even though it’s sometimes not what I would want it to be. Or what it was before.
So no, I can’t do everything I once did. But I don’t walk with a cane, and I’m not in a wheelchair. And for those miracles, I am grateful! :)
“Some people believe that holding on and hanging in there are signs of strength, but there are times in life when it takes much more strength to just let go.”