When I first heard those words, “You have rheumatoid arthritis,” I felt as if my whole world was ending. Why me? Why now?
I had finally met the man of my dreams, after years of struggling as a single parent, and was loving our active life of outdoors activities on the water and in the woods. We loved to hike and kayak together, taking in the beauty of God’s creation.
But within just a few months of our wedding, all that changed.
My RA symptoms had actually begun about a year before I was diagnosed. I was so fatigued that I frequently fell asleep alongside my young daughter when I was putting her to bed. I'd have to take naps to make it through the day. My hands ached and my feet hurt--I couldn’t walk across hardwood floors without wearing slippers.
But I spent a long time in denial. My focus was elsewhere. My father was dying of cancer and my wedding was coming up. It was clear, though, that something was wrong. My swollen joints made it difficult to put on my wedding ring. The fatigue began to interfere with my work and other activities. The pain became excruciating, frequently waking me up at night.
When I was finally diagnosed, I sat in the doctor’s office with my husband, Ben, and cried. My greatest fear, with the RA diagnosis, was that all of the dreams of our new life together had just died.
This this past summer, my husband and I took our “bucket list” trip to the Canadian Rockies, realizing our dream of hiking and kayaking together once more.
While that time together in the outdoors in Canada was a fantastic payoff for mitigating the pain of my disease, my greatest achievement still has been managing my day to day life with RA, and staying positive.
The keys have been to dig deeper into my faith and to reach out to others. When I was first diagnosed, I couldn’t find anything online that offered much hope. So, I created my own blog, "Spring Sight," to share my journey and to encourage others to find hope in the midst of pain.
When I was growing up, I wanted to be a missionary, so having RA gave me the opportunity to be one, sharing God’s love with others who are struggling. Knowing I am helping others with RA gives me a greater purpose for what I’m going through, and helps me feel better about my own life with this disease.
The biggest thing I’ve learned about RA is that while it may limit you at times, it does not have to define you. There will be good days, bad days, and lots in between. It’s okay to slow down. It’s also okay to ask for help.
Building a support system – physical, emotional and spiritual – is important; and being a support to someone else can actually lighten YOUR load a little.
Remember, you’re not alone. And keep on believing! With faith, anything is possible.