Life Doesn't Stop Just Because You Have Rheumatoid Arthritis

Sara Nash Health Guide
  • When I first found out that I had rheumatoid arthritis, I felt like the world needed to stop turning and hang perfectly still on its axis until I could get my bearings and understand what was happening to me.  I wanted to hit pause on some universal remote control long enough to catch my breath and figure out what all of this meant and then be able to hit play when, and only when, I was ready.  But as we all know, life doesn’t stop just because you have RA.  I still had my job to do, bills to pay, decisions to make. I had to feed myself and do my laundry. I had to become med-savvy in what seemed like an instant while all of the rest of my life continued.  And then there was the avalanche of emotions that came with this kind of startling news that also had to be dealt with. Life barreled over me just the same as it had before RA.  A Chinese parable one of my favorite yoga teachers had once shared came back to me with the poignancy of an arrow straight into my heart: ‘I am happy; the birds fly over. I am sad; the birds fly over.’  Like it or not, I realized those damn birds were going to keep flying over with or without RA.

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    With time, I caught up. I figured out how to fit in the myriad doctor appointments.  Sticking needles into my thigh became routine instead of scary.  It also took less time as my anxiety about giving myself shots decreased and then vanished all together- something that seemed impossible at the beginning of this journey. I learned the meaning of the word ‘prioritize’ in a whole new way and applied the lesson to my life. I cut out what didn’t work and focused on what did. It wasn’t as easy or as smooth as this paragraph makes it sound, but I figured out how to manage because really, there wasn’t any other choice. ‘Ob La Di, Ob La Da, Life Goes On.’


    And so mine did. As my meds kicked in and my life reordered itself, RA, which had been so front and center, slowly began to stop hogging all my attention. It left room for other parts of my life to have their time in the limelight. As more time went by, those other parts even took center stage and let RA recede into the background.  It’s still a part of the cast, and until a cure is found, it always will be, but thankfully, it’s no longer dominating my whole story.


    In fact, recently the major themes dictating what direction my life would take have been love and romance. At the start of the year, it seemed that a move to Europe might be in the cards, but by April, that storyline had played itself out and fizzed into heartbreak.

    And this is where life can be so wonderfully unpredictable. Just as I was about to write 2011 off as a crummy, no good year where nothing went right, an incredible job opportunity that was impossible to resist popped up.  And it wasn’t just any job- it was a job that would involve tons of travel and relocation to another city: Boston! Change was still in the air.


    As Lene joked when I shared my news with her, ‘some women get a new haircut after the end of a relationship. Not you. You move to another part of the country.’  Apparently, I do. In just a few short weeks, I will be trading Charm City for Bean Town, and I’m beyond excited.  The new job is a big step forward for me and will allow me to do work that I am passionate about in the arts on a whole new level. I can’t wait to jump in with both feet and get started. When I left New York City two years ago, it felt daunting to take on a new city and job, another set of doctors, and the ‘unknown’ with my RA in tow. With this move, I feel prepared. I know I can’t predict what will happen, but at this point, I feel confident that I can meet the challenges head on and make it work.


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    The downside to this new job, however, is that it means I am going to be one busy lady. Between the demands of my new job, carving out a new home and taking care of myself, I am sadly not going to be able to continue writing here at each month, though I do hope to pop in every now and again. I have mixed feelings about stepping away from my blogging - writing about my journey with RA and being part of the community has been a big part of my life and my identity over the last four years. I confess that I feel a little guilty stepping away, scared that I am some sort of fair-weather friend. But at the same time, I feel grateful and excited that I can step away.  After all, isn’t the whole point of good treatment to get you back to a place where your life, not your disease, is the main story? This was certainly the goal of my rheumatologist, whom I will miss terribly, and it is also my goal. If I’ve learned anything from sharing my story and listening to so many others’ over the last four years, it’s that I am not my disease. Rheumatoid arthritis is one part of me, but only one; the sum of all the parts of my life is something much, much greater. And now, instead of writing about my life with RA, I am going to go out and get busy living it.

    Thank you to all of you here for your support, trust, encouragement and wisdom.  You have profoundly changed the course of my life, and for that, I will be forever grateful.


    Sara is the author of the blog, The Single Gal’s Guide to Rheumatoid Arthritis

Published On: September 05, 2011