Rheumatoid Arthritis: Getting Back on the Bicycle
We all have activities we enjoy doing in life and when rheumatoid arthritis comes knocking at our door, there is a huge fear of it taking away those very activities that we love. For me, bike riding is the thing I love doing. During the worst of times with my rheumatoid arthritis, I was willing to give up a lot of other things, but not my bike riding. I tried riding when my knees were swollen and sore, I tried riding when my fingers could barely grasp the brakes, and I rode when my shoulders were stiff and hollered in pain. Why? It was just one thing I could not give up easily.
However, a time came when the bike didn’t make it out of the garage all summer and my son became my husband’s regular biking companion instead of me. I was glad it was my son, but it still hurt to accept that an activity my husband and I had enjoyed together even before kids was no longer a reality for me.
Each time I have made a little progress with my rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, bike riding has been the first thing to make its way back to my life. Over the last seven years my family has been very accepting of riding on paths that were a little gentler on my joints or only doing half the ride we generally did together.
When I have been able to ride a complete “normal” ride, I have always felt so joyful and proud. These are the rides that have always given me hope that I would be back to a place where riding was easy again. On my worst days, I would visualize myself speeding down the path of a local forest preserve and it has kept me motivated to stay optimistic about my diagnosis.
That hope and visualization has paid off. Right now my body is doing very well. With the combination of medications I am taking, along with an anti-inflammatory diet, I am almost in a state of what I would call “remission”. With my body feeling so good, I am sure you can guess what I have been doing - bike riding.
Along with bike rides to forest preserves in our area with my family, my 15 year old son has challenged me to do our grocery shopping via bicycles this summer. We bought a bike trailer and will be making our weekly shopping trips together on bike. We are also making good attempts to ride our bike to places such as the library, dog/babysitting jobs, quick errands and more. We find that bike riding not only gives us good exercise and saves money on gasoline, but also gives us time to talk with each other and time to let our brains relax while noticing the wonderful gifts nature has to give us that we often miss while quickly driving by in our car.
This summer is the summer for me to celebrate how far I have come with my rheumatoid arthritis. It is the summer for me to get out and enjoy nature on my bicycle with my family or on foot with my border collie. When I look back on some of the days I have experienced with rheumatoid arthritis, it is hard to believe how easy a recent bike ride was for me. Right now I am making the memories that will stick with me whether my joints feel good or not.
What is the one activity that you have a difficult time giving up? What gives you hope for a brighter future?