A diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and fibromyalgia (FM) can alter anyone’s life but imagine being a young parent with career goals. I was a 32 years old with two small children and a career when RA and FM came into my life. At the time, I thought that my life was over and any dreams I had were gone as well. I was afraid I would be disabled so what was the point of dreams?
I was fortunate because no one told me that I had to give up my dreams and the things I was passionate about. It angers me when doctors tell RA patients to do just that. I don’t hear that often with FM patients but FM is a fairly new in the medical world. While it has existed for hundreds of years and has been cited in history, no official name was designated for it. In fact, only in recent years has the medical community acknowledged it as a real disease. So, back to my point that you don’t hear FM patients say that often. With RA, however, doctors tell patients to give up everything that wanted and everything they are passionate about because their lives are over. Talk about a slap in the face in addition to the diagnosis.
My first year with RA was shear hell. The pain was new and the worst I ever experienced and I welcomed death. I was a case of severe depression waiting to happen. At some point, I thought that my dreams and my life were over. When I was researching and trying to learn all I could about RA, the images and information on the internet were disturbing and furthered my depression. I recall giving my husband and sisters instructions on what to do if I became disabled or incapacitated because of RA. It was a truly dark period in my life. Sometimes, I am not sure how I got through those days or when my wakeup call came but I did.
When comes to RA, you don’t read positive news and information about RA. As a result, it is hard for you to believe that your life can be normal. If you want normal, read RA blogs. Connect with fellow patients and focus on a lifestyle that involves accommodating RA in your life. What you shouldn’t do is give up. RA doesn’t have to win and it will only win if you let it. It saddens me when RA patients give up the things they love and it angers when those in the medical community encourage this. Medicine has advanced in the last ten years and RA today isn’t the same as it was ten years ago. Yes, in some cases, RA can be severe and can disable and debilitate but the majority of us fall in the moderate and mild categories.
When my diagnoses came, I was young mother who planned on attending law school. I knew that I would get through law school with flying colors and I would be an amazing lawyer. When RA and FM came into my life, I knew that I could not continue to work fulltime, be a working mother, attend law school, and be sick all at the same time. You see I was the mother who had a career, a family life, and still made it to school activities and family functions. I was one heck of a superwoman but RA and FM changed that. My diseases changed me from the inside out. Law school was no longer my dream. I made a decision to continue in the legal field and received a master in legal studies. I also started to advocate for arthritis and fibromyalgia and I am happy. RA and FM changed my plans but I still continued to have dreams. I have done a lot since my diagnoses and if I hadn’t changed my attitude, it would have never been possible.
So, if you plan on climbing a mountain, running a marathon, having a baby or traveling the world, the only person standing in your way is you. Further, no one in a white coat should tell you that your dreams are a thing of the past. You know what works for you so do what works for you. Sometimes, plans will change and that’s okay too.