A Big Pain in the Neck

Sometimes I wonder why I worry at all; it seems like I can spend hours ruminating about something, and in the end, the curveballs thrown my way always seem to be things that come out of left field. I can fret all day if I want to but it seems that life has its own idea about how to scare me. Recently, I learned this lesson again. The past few months I've spent a lot of time concerned about side effects to my new medication, and instead, a pain in the neck turned into a dire warning that my disease has progressed.

The pain started slowly...

Apparently, we all have a joint that connects our first and second vertebrae called the atlantoaxial joint and when you have juvenile rheumatoid arthritis over time this joint can become unstable. Often, a person won't even know this is an issue until they begin to feel pain. For me, the pain started slowly, a stiff neck, a sore spot I constantly rubbed, and then one day a headache that wouldn't go away. Then, an x-ray, an MRI, and a visit to the doctor who told me I need to see a specialist asap. This new development could lead me to a neck brace, to surgery, a limitation on my activities, or to sudden death if I'm not careful; at this point, I have no idea. Until I know more, I'll be moving cautiously and avoiding dangerous activities, which for me is like trying to hold my breath - I happen to be the type of person who feels like I wasted my day if I haven't done at least one thing that people shake their head at.

When something like this happens to me, platitudes fall apart.

Things may happen for a reason, I may not be given anything I can't handle, life may or may not be fair, but right now I honestly don't care. What I do care about is making the most of every moment I have here, doing the best I can in every situation I find myself, and in living with grace no matter what is going on. So right now, instead of worrying about the next thing that probably won't happen the way I imagine it will, I'm going to focus on finding a good book. I'm going to look my dog Jasper in the eyes and tell him I love him. I'm going to hug and kiss my husband like I mean it. And I'm going to smile because I'm so, so happy to be here.

Having rheumatoid arthritis means that as the disease progresses, so can I. As my body becomes more limited in what it can do for me, I've decided that I'll work on strengthening the 90% of the brainpower I supposedly haven't been using. I'm going to show progress in my ability to control unnecessary worry, and instead focus on compassion because this will be a better contribution in the world right now. I'm confronting my mortality for the first time in a real way. None of these things are bad, in fact, my neck may be doing me a favor. By showing me its vulnerability it is making the rest of me stronger. I'm not thanking it yet, but I'm hoping someday I will.

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