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Over the years of dealing with Rheumatoid Arthritis, I have realized that none of us are alone in our pain and obstacles of life.  Quite a few of my close friends, from various parts of my life, have dealt with or are currently dealing with medical issues, chronic illnesses and even food allergies.  I have always admired their strength and courage in the face of illness and the unknown.  I am so lucky to have such loving friends in my life, and I want to dedicate this post to all of them.

Recently, one of my close friends Tracy was admitted to the hospital for severe muscle pain and spasms and after over a week of medications, tests and waiting, she is still there.  My heart goes out to her right now as she waits patiently (for another week) for something to work to ease the pain. Tracy and I met about 6 years ago in Washington, DC, through some mutual friends from Georgetown.  She was such an inspiration to me because she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) as a little girl, and has continued to brave out the auto-immune disease through her late twenties.  We grew close over the years with our stories of hospitals, prescription trials, our granny pill boxes and our fight to never give up.  It is amazing to me how strong Tracy continues to be, even as she is waiting in the hospital for answers and relief.  I will never forget her strength and courage.

I also just recently had a friend visit me in San Francisco, Allie, who I met my freshman year of college.  We hit it off during the Freshman Orientation week, when we volunteered together at a kindergarden in Washington, DC.  We have kept in touch over the years — but little did we know how similar our lives would be with our medical struggles (and even boy drama) over the years. Allie recently found out she was allergic to a bunch of foods that are key to her diet, especially as a vegetarian.  Along with other stomach problems over the years, she now has to limit her diet.  And believe me, I understand how difficult that is.  But as we reminisced over the past and talked about our similarities over the years, we helped each other talk through our questions and our worries.  Allie has such a positive attitude about all of the medical changes in her life recently, and I admire that about her.  I know that throughout all of this, I can always count on her smile!

The irony of life lies in how two of my closest childhood friends also have had a rough time medically over the past 5 or so years.  My neighbor from elementary school, Nicolette, was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia a few years ago, after a painful struggle of testing and wondering and medication trials.  She is now living in New York City and teaching photography to kids. I admire how she won’t let all these medical issues and ups and downs stop her from chasing her dreams.

The other close friend of mine from childhood, who I met in middle school, is Molly.  We have stayed friends for almost 15 years, and through the rollercoaster of life, I love that we can still support each other through it all. It all started when we were kids and Molly had to have a couple of knee surgeries.  Soon after, I was having knee surgeries.  Following that, Molly and I went through all of the food allergies guessing games together — first wheat and gluten, then possibly corn, then other foods and dyes.  But we managed to find our favorite gluten-free pizza places to meet up at in Arizona to brighten our days.  And even now, we both struggle through random back pain and other medical questions that doctors sometimes can’t answer.  Fortunately, we have each other for the support and advice, since we apparently have a lot of similar issues (and annoying doctors)!

My friend Lauren from high school also has struggled through some medical unknowns over the past several years.  I love that when we are visiting each other, our diets are basically the same — gluten-free and dairy-free!  And through all of the questions, pains and guessing games, Lauren has always been strong.  She is one of my support systems who I can call when I’m blue and I am so fortunate.

Another girlfriend from college was one of the first of my friends that I met who was struggling with medical issues. Went I met Abbey, she was going through a blood disorder that was breaking down her body and caused her to almost leave school.  She has been so strong through everything the doctors have told her and after reconnecting with her in the past few months, we exchanged stories of test results, genetic factors and traumatic influences.  I admire her positive attitude and willingness to start new in the face of tragedy or change.  She is such a strong soul.

It is amazing to be able to talk about all of these things with my close friends, being comforted by the fact that some of them know exactly how I have felt going through life changes and medical disasters.  I truly am blessed to have friends like these ladies in my life.  And even to all of my friends and family who may not be struggling through these issues themselves, I appreciate all of the love and support I have had the past 6 or so years through this journey.