Book Review: “Spiritual Two-By-Fours And Other Wake-Up Calls” By Kimberly Rooney
According to the Arthritis Foundation, about 1.5 million people in the United States are living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). That means there are actually a lot of us, but seeing as there are almost 314 million people total living in the United States, there’s a good chance that many of us do not personally know anyone else dealing with RA. That’s one of the reasons I think it is so important to share our stories with each other through resources like RheumatoidArthritis.net and other media – so we can learn from each other and feel less alone during times when we are struggling.
I recently read one person’s RA story in a book called “Spiritual Two-By-Fours and Other Wake-Up Calls: What To Do When Life Hits You Upside the Head” by Kimberly Rooney. As it turns out, Kimberly and I have very similar diagnosis stories. We were both active, athletic people who at a young age (her at 29, me at 25) suddenly found ourselves living in bodies we didn’t understand or know how to manage. Also like me, Kimberly is a wife and mother who volunteers with her local Arthritis Foundation chapter. Amazingly she is even donating a portion of her royalties from the book to the Arthritis Foundation!
However, Kimberly has been living with RA for a lot longer than I have. In her book she shares what she has learned in this time. She is extremely open and honest about the changes being diagnosed with RA brought to her life, especially the emotional ones. She writes about experiencing what I found to be a very familiar moment of clarity, where she realized that the quality of her life after her diagnosis depended on looking at life in a whole new way and making new choices. She explains that it takes a lot of courage to learn to love the challenges life throws at you.
For Kimberly, being diagnosed with RA becomes a voyage of self re-discovery. She investigates her spirituality, relying on faith and a higher power, and even learning from numerology and energetic forces. To help her accept her own RA, she thinks of the disease not as an intruder but rather as “her dance partner,” referring to him as “Arthur.” To her, “Arthur” is a gift, and she even goes so far as to say that she invited this gift into her life.
In fact, Kimberly seems to hold herself partially responsible for her own diagnosis, as if her past life choices and failure to properly understand her own heart somehow led to the development of her physical arthritis symptoms. And while I certainly support accepting your RA diagnosis and learning from your experiences with it, I personally think this is a somewhat unhelpful line of thinking. As far as I know, there is no medical or scientific evidence to support the claim that choices we make (or don’t make) contribute to the development of RA. In my opinion, adjusting to a life-changing diagnosis like RA takes enough emotional strength without also needing to deal with potential guilt over whether or not we brought this disease on ourselves.
The book also emphasizes the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including a healthy and nutritious diet. I certainly agree with the importance of healthy eating – whether you have RA or not! Additionally, many people with RA have found benefits through changing their diets and eating habits. But while I do think it is important to take responsibility for our own eating choices, I am, again, a bit uncomfortable with the insinuation that poor diet choices could have caused arthritis symptoms. And while certain diet choices may help some people with RA, there is no diet that will cure RA. I also think it is important to point out that while diet changes may help you feel and live better, most people with moderate to severe RA will still need medications to control everyday symptoms and prevent long term joint destruction.
In general, I think Kimberly’s book makes some great points about what you can learn by accepting your RA diagnosis. She also provides prompts, or “dance steps,” that may help you through your own personal journey. Her section on the importance of gratitude really struck home to me, as I truly believe it is very important to be grateful for the things we do have and the things our bodies can do. There is no doubt that it took a lot of courage for Kimberly to bear her soul, and I am grateful that she shared her story with the world.