One of the toughest things about being diagnosed with a chronic illness is that I constantly try to find meaning in everything that happens to me. Most prominently on my mind is usually the question, what did I do to deserve constant pain for the rest of my life?
Yeah, yeah, yeah…I’ve heard a thousand times – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
And I appreciate everyone who has told me that I’m the strongest person they know…but I didn’t ask to be the strong one, you know? What if I was just fine with being a wimp?!
[Side note: that reminds me of when I was a kid and I used to hate it when my sister or mother poked me, so I would say “OW!” really dramatically when they would even slightly touch me. Hilarious…but maybe that overly dramatic behavior as a child jinxed me…]
There are days when I am strong and want to be strong, when I can manage things on my own. But, there are other days where I am holding back tears and I just want to break down and ask nobody in particular “why me?” Why did I have to get just the right amount of genetics from my parents that I can never do something as simple as run again? (Okay, for those of you who know me, I never really could run, per say…it was more like prancing) Why did this skip my entire family and I have to be the one to endure this illness. Somehow it doesn’t seem quite fair that I was chosen to bear this pain for the rest of my life.
But then I think, what really is fair in life? I think of how little children are suffering through horrible illnesses such as leukemia or cancer, and I realize that there isn’t any sense to this. I suppose there is no answer to my question, except that it is not about who has to deal with chronic pain or why, but what a person does with their lives despite the pain.
What Happens Now?
I was talking to my best friend recently about her newest desires to be a mother (you know who you are) and it got me to thinking…what happens when I’m in my thirties (let’s just throw that age out there) and I want to have children? I would have to think about stopping the Methotrexate and Cimzia in order to even attempt at getting pregnant. And then there is a possibility that the RA pain could improve or get worse during the pregnancy. And if I am blessed with a child or I consider adopting a child, how am I going to hold my baby or toddler all day when I can barely lift my groceries? How will I button those little buttons on their baby knitted sweater when I sometimes have difficulty buttoning my own? It makes me sad to think that the RA could put such a downer on having a family, when it is something I have wanted all of my life.
And what happens if the pain gets to be too much to handle on top of working full-time and dating in the city and cooking and having a social life? I have been trying to stay active and social this past year, but man is it tiring! Late nights and hangovers make me feel like an 80-year old already…I’m sure in a few years it’s going to get significantly more tiring since I’ll be 30! Yikes! (Yes, that was a poke to a few of my friends out there over 30…)
I know there is still hope. Every time I see my doctor in Sacramento, I gain a sense of hope and trust that he will not give up until he has helped put my RA into remission, where I could live my life nearly pain-free. And I know my family and friends are always here to help me through this, but this just isn’t the type of life I thought I’d be living in my 20s…and 30s and 40s…okay, you get the picture.
In this search for meaning and answers, I am realizing that maybe this chronic illness was given to me so I can take the strength from the support of my family and friends and spread awareness of this disease. Maybe there are not enough people who know that Rheumatoid Arthritis can affect the life of a 26-year old. Maybe there are people out there with a chronic illness who are not aware of how the insurance companies are not treating them fairly. Maybe there is not enough funding being raised for research and community support for arthritis.
And this is why I decided to join the Arthritis Walk in San Francisco this year. No matter how much money my team raises in the end, it truly is about spreading the awareness and support to those who struggle with this chronic illness and other forms of arthritis. This is a real disease that affects real people every day, young and old. And at the moment, I’m strong enough to be an advocate for those who aren’t.