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Last updated: April 2020

I recently injured my index finger on my non-dominant hand. I have to splint it for a few weeks and let it heal on its own. While the pain is particularly bad, (I am not used to such acute pain) the hassle is the bigger issue.

I can’t say that I’m particularly able-bodied to begin with, but at least I have function of all my extremities. I only injured the tip of my index finger but I was surprised by how much I used it! Cooking, washing dishes, typing, and working with the pets are just a few of the exercises, that come to mind. Driving isn’t compromised but I keep whacking my index finger against the car itself when I turn the key in the ignition or change the gear shift.

Chronic illness forces us to adapt

Yes, in the grand scheme of things, it was a small injury but I still surprised by my ability to adapt to this new disadvantage. Within a few hours, I was already typing pretty well and keeping that finger from general use.

I know I’m making it sound like I am navigating a whole new world but this got me thinking about how adaptable I am, in general, and any chronic illness warrior really.

Managing finger and wrist stiffness

Think about it, every morning we have to gauge our functionality, based on a multitude of factors, for the day. And, every day is different. Some days, my fingers and wrists are so stiff typing is out of the question. Which means I have to use dictation, hold the steering wheel differently, and generally loosen my grip.

Making adjustments due to swollen knees

Sometimes, my knees are so swollen, I can’t do stairs properly and walking is a nightmare. I have to change my gait and my speed, use an assistive device and push come to shove, even change my plans. Sometimes, my eyes are so dry, I am sensitive to light and have to wear glasses, dim the lights and avoid bright areas.

And, really, it's not just the day, is it? My condition can change on the hour and I better adjust quickly or I'll miss out on everything.

With RA, we adapt to protect ourselves

Sure, there are some days where I can't just "figure it out" and carry on. But generally, I have to make it through my day. Rheumatoid disease warriors are chameleons. We put on a different skin every day and, in order to protect ourselves, we adapt to our environment.

For example, at one of my schools, there are a lot of stairs. There is an elevator on the other side of the school so that doesn't help me. I usually carry/wheel my belongings with me to the classroom but, when I am in really bad shape and I can't even roll the suitcase, I leave my stuff at the side entrance, come through the front of the school and double back to the side. It's not convenient, but it is necessary. That is just one example, but I am sure there are many more!

Being adaptable is part of our resilience

Sunsilk recently lost her eyesight due to hypertension. (We lucked out and she got it back about eight days later). I noticed her blindness the day it happened but I was amazed at how quickly she adapted to her new circumstances. That same evening she was jumping up on the bed, climbing the stairs, and living life well.

RA warriors are just as resilient, aren’t we? Sure, we don’t lose a full sense but we change how we live because of pain, fatigue, and disability. We are freaking powerhouses because we do it so quickly and so well.

What are some ways you adapt because of your RA?

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