Cherishing the Good Times

We’ve probably all had the experience of being sick and thinking ahead to the gratitude that will come once the discomfort of the illness fades away. Every time I have a cold, flu, or virus, I think, “I’ll be so happy when I feel better.” Then for a day or two after I do feel better, I think, “I’ll never take feeling good for granted again.” However, it’s probably part of our survival skills that our memories of illness soon become fuzzy, and we don’t spend much time reflecting on how much worse we could feel. The gratitude quickly ebbs just as the sickness did, and before long I go about my day no longer feeling grateful for a settled stomach, an absent cough, or clear sinuses.

However, this experience is a bit different with a chronic health condition. As a person living with rheumatoid arthritis, I never get to a place where the disease completely fades away. There are typical days that involve mild to moderate pain and fatigue, there are flares, and there are some good days, but I’ve never been in remission, and therefore I’ve never had the luxury of taking my joint health for granted.


When I have a good day, I celebrate it. I revel in being able to pick up my three-year old, take a spin on the dance floor, or go for a long walk with my family. While these experiences would be enjoyable if I didn’t have RA, because I have this disease I can never count on being able to do any of these things, so I cherish these activities when my body allows me to perform them. This appreciation increases the satisfaction I experience. If I am able to dance, I not only experience the fun of dancing, but also rejoice in my mobility. If I go for a long walk with my husband and kids, I’m glad for the quality time with my family in the fresh air, but I’m also enjoying being included, rather than being at home on the couch. When I pick up my three-year old, I’m not only drinking in this precious, limited time that he still wants to be held by his mommy, I’m also thanking my body for allowing me to have this experience while he’s this age.

Rachel Naomi Remen, a doctor who has Crohn’s disease, has both experienced great physical suffering and has treated patients whose lives are utterly changed by chronic illness. In her excellent book Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories that Heal she recounts being a small girl and hiding all the dark puzzle pieces from the jigsaw her family was working on, thinking they were ugly. When progress on the puzzle came to a halt, she confessed to her mother where the missing pieces were. Her mother then took those pieces and placed them into the overall picture, that of a beautiful nature scene. Her mother explained that without the darkness, we cannot have the beauty. I have thought of this story time and time again in relation to having RA. I often wish that I could stash away the darkness that is the pain and fatigue of rheumatoid arthritis. In all honesty, there are many times when I feel it negatively impacts my outlook on life, as it’s hard to acknowledge the beauty of the world when I’m in pain. Yet, there are also times when I feel that having these challenges brings mindfulness to my daily life, helping me savor the “good days” and never taking them for granted.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (3)
  • Tiptoetammy17
    3 years ago

    I forgot to say that I am 26 now and been battling for 24 years.

  • Tiptoetammy17
    3 years ago

    Hello my name is Tammy and I was diagnosed at the age of 2. All I can remember is having pain. I cant recall a time when I haven’t had pain. I found your story helpful for me. My RA is a little different because I was diagnosed at a young age. I have come to learn that I have to have a good attitude when I am in pain or I will be completely miserable all of the time. My Husband does a lot for me to. There is a lot that I cant do and what I can do i have to pace myself. Was it hard to have a child with RA my husband and I have been thinking about having a family i just don’t know if I will be able to be a good mother with my JRA. Thnk you for your time
    -Tammy

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    3 years ago

    Hi Tammy,

    Thanks so much for reaching out to share your perspective and experience! As far as having children, having RA does make parenting more difficult, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. If having a family is very important to you, you will be able to find ways to make accommodations. If your husband is supportive and willing to help, you will be able to make it work. That being said, if you are on the fence about having children, do bear in mind that what everyone always says, that parenting is the best thing and the hardest thing they’ve ever done, is true. Parenting is the only job that you don’t ever get a break from. Even when the kids are at daycare or school, you still worry about them and have a million details on your mind about them (for instance, today after work I have to make muffins for my son’s class, pack their bags for a trip they’re taking with their father, and purchase end-of-the-year gifts for their teachers). I know tons of moms who don’t have diseases or disabilities that find parenting challenging; although, like me, they also find it extremely rewarding and never wish they weren’t moms. So in sum, if you really want to be a mom, you’ll find ways to make it work. If you’re not sure, you are still young and have some time to decide. When I was 26, I wanted kids, but wasn’t ready for them yet. I had my first child at 32 and my second child at 34, and that was the right timing for me. What children need most is love. If you have plenty of love to give to a child, the rest will work itself out.

    It’s also a good idea to discuss what pregnancy and labor might look like for you with your rheumatologist and gynecologist. I was really worried about how my body would handle pregnancy and labor, but both of my doctors told me I would be fine, and both said it would be safe for the baby if I needed to take some prednisone during pregnancy. They ended up being right (and I did end up taking some prednisone during each of my pregnancies, and my babies were and are healthy).

    Here are some articles about parenting that I’ve written that explore both the positives and negatives about being a mom with RA, in case you’re interested in reading more:https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/being-a-new-mom/, https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/mean-mommy/, and https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/balancing-family/.

    Thanks for being part of our community!

    Wishing you all the best,
    Tamara (Site Moderator)

  • Poll