When you are diagnosed with arthritis, regardless of the type you have, you begin to have feelings of uncertainty. You also have many questions, many which are unanswerable especially at the time of diagnosis. The important thing that patients look for when it comes to a prognosis is measurable results. However, that is not something that anyone can provide.
In my case, after being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, I wanted to know whether things would get worse for me and whether I would continue to be able to work and to take care of my family. I desperately wanted someone to give me a response that was measurable and the only response I received from my doctor was that she did not know and that the course of the disease was different for everyone.
Most doctors inform patients that arthritis is not the same for everyone that symptoms can range from mild to severe. This includes periods of flares as well as periods of remission. The fact is that there no way of predicting the future and as a result, patients have fears that set in.
The questions that stood out for me were:
• Will I become disabled?
• How will having arthritis affect my life and my future?
• Will I continue to work and take care of my children?
Those answers came later. I don’t necessarily know at this point in my life where I will be in five or ten years. I just know that the plan is to continue to focus on managing my disease and putting aside my fears. I have done everything I can to learn about my disease. I have worked closely with my rheumatologist on my treatment plan and I have focused on adhering to it. I have kept a positive attitude and I have surrounded myself with support. As far as I am concerned, I have done everything that is necessary to set my fears aside.
What I do know for sure is that my fears are normal. At the time of diagnosis, however, I needed a clear perspective. If I were to focus too much on the fear, I wouldn’t be able to cope and manage my disease. Fears can elicit feelings of stress and that stress has a negative impact on your disease and overall health. By accepting your situation, you give yourself best chance of having a good outcome.
I still worry about the future but what I have learned in the past few years is that I can make things work. I have had to change some of my dreams as a result of having been diagnosed with RA but I still have dreams! My dreams changed because of having had to make lifestyle adjustments but also because of seeing life in a different perspective once I made those changes. For example, I gave up going to law school but having had the opportunity to find a job that was less stressful, I decided law school was not part of my future and I made different plans. Additionally, I gave up volunteer commitments but had more time with my kids. In my view, everything happens for a reason. So yes, I still have fears but I know now that I can overcome those fears and any limitations that stand in my way.
What fears have you had? What fears do you have now that you have had an opportunity to access your situation? Do you still worry about the future?