Introducing Sara Nash, a newly 30 professional gal in NYC facing life with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Her blog will appear twice a month at MyRACentral.com along with a comic strip about her life as single in the city drawn by cartoonist Jane Samborski.
About this time last year, my life was looking pretty good: I was finally living on my own in Manhattan, had just gotten promoted to Senior Producer at a very busy contemporary dance center, and had finally shed the remnants of a bad relationship. I was single, I was successful, and I was poised to make the last year of my 20's a bang up year.
My immune system, it turns out, was getting ready to have a bang up year all on its own; just as I reached my 29th birthday, I found myself struggling to walk when I would get up in the morning. Simple tasks like washing my hair and brushing my teeth brought inexplicable pain, and one of my toe joints became so swollen I could hardly wear any of my shoes, and certainly none of the three-inch heels I normally ran around in.
At first, I tried to ignore what was happening, but when I woke up completely unable to move my left wrist one morning, I knew that all was not right in the world of Super Single Sara.
And so it began. A few doctor appointments and blood tests later, and I was slapped with a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis.
Suddenly, this fabulous life I was going to be leading looked very, very different. Everything I had worked so hard for - living on my own, landing a top position that demanded long hours and many nights out, took on new meaning. How the hell was I going to make this work? I didn't know, but I was determined to keep living my life the way I wanted to.
Clearly, I had no idea what I was in for. By the time the end of the year rolled around, I had pretty much been stopped in my tracks. Despite the meds my rheumatologist had started me on, getting through a simple day at work took absolutely everything I had.
Instead of spending my nights off and weekends out on the town with friends, I was at home by myself trying desperately to get some sleep. I had a million dates with doctors, but unfortunately, not one of them included dinner or cocktails (though they did often end up with me topless). I had to invent new strategies just to get dressed in the morning (I mean, you can't exactly ask your anonymous neighbor to come over and help you put on your bra). Once an avid practitioner and teacher of yoga, I was no longer able to practice at all, and the list of things I couldn't do kept growing longer and longer, meanwhile, my thighs kept growing wider and wider.
In January, I finally began taking Enbrel. The shots completely freaked me out at first, but at that point, I probably would have injected heroin into my eyeballs if there were a chance it would make me feel better. Slowly but surely, I began to emerge from the pain-laden winter and step back into my life. Bit by bit, I was able to reclaim some of the things I had lost, like my yoga practice, being able to scrub my bathroom floor and my sense of humor. I was even able to start wearing heels every now and then, though sadly, not the three inch ones (well, at least not most of the time. Sometimes I choose pain in order to feel normal again. Vain, but true.).
As I began to feel better, I started to sift through all of the experiences I had had over the last year. None of the books about RA that I had found (and there weren't that many, compared to a lot of other diseases out there) included people like me in their profiles. None of them talked about how to get by with this crummy disease in a city that, though thrilling, takes no prisoners. And although I had plenty of stomach-churning worries and concerns about my new medical status and health, I also had other questions, like what are the politics of dating when you have a chronic illness? I haven't really put myself out there so much since my diagnosis, but dating in New York City is tricky enough when you aren't dealing with pain, fatigue and popping pills with every meal.
After a few months of muddling through my experiences, I sat down at my computer and started to write. Lo and behold, a blog was born. Now, as I approach 30, I'm looking forward to writing at MyRACentral.com to share my perspective on figuring out how to live life as a young, urban-dwelling single woman who, you know, just happens to have a chronic disease.
Sara Nash also has her own blog, The Single Gal's Guide to Rheumatoid Arthritis. She writes for HealthCentral twice a month. Her next post will feature her comic strip -- Single Gal In the City -- drawn by Jane Samborski, stay tuned!