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stress and RA

Familiar Lessons

My mother’s death day anniversary was at the beginning of August. She passed away when I was 12 and not a day goes by that I don’t miss her. But, around her anniversary I delve deeper into our relationship and think about all the things she taught me.

Mum’s many lessons

Her biggest lesson was how to take care of myself in ways of friends, family, home and work. By the time I was twelve I could balance the books and care for a home. Did she start teaching me all these things when she was first diagnosed with cancer or did she just think these were important life lessons at my age?

Mami was strict. By the time I was seven I laundered my own clothes…sort of. (We had a top load dryer and I was too short to transfer them from the washer…still am, for that matter.) I ironed my uniforms by age eight. I had chores even though I didn’t have an allowance. It was just implied I help with the housework. My favorite activity was vacuuming (it still is). I made my bed, fluffed the pillows and made sure everything was tidy.

I thank her every day for instilling a life-long ambition for order and standards. However, there is one thought that continually looms over my head. While I can attribute my entire being to this woman I have no idea how she would handle my autoimmune condition. Mum had Lupus. Well, “Lupus-like syndrome”. As any Spoonie knows our chronic illnesses never quite fit perfectly into their descriptions. Her autoimmune presented like Lupus but not really. When I came along she quit work and devoted herself to full time mother.

To me, she did everything.

I never remember her showing pain or complaining. To me, she did everything. She woke up at 4 am (now I know to eat, medicate and just “thaw” before I woke up). She cleaned the house, cooked the meals, drove me to and from school and overall just did EVERYTHING. Occasionally she would “cat nap” where she sat on the sofa and closed her eyes for ten minutes. She said ‘don’t bother me for a few minutes’. Those were her times to recharge.

Mami was on a high steroid dose and took DMARDs, plus probably way more medications I don’t know about. She pushed herself every day to be the best mother so I always wonder what advice she would give me now. She was a strong, independent woman who taught me to be my best. Would she say ‘pick yourself up by the boot straps and just get it done’ (like she normally would) or would she be sympathetic to the pain and disability and say ‘try your hardest’? Would she just say ‘limits, slimits!’? I honestly can’t see her saying ‘poor you, you’re not as capable as you were before.” She wasn’t that person. There was never any reason for her (or me) to be less than 100%.

Life would be different if she were still here.

Life in general would be a lot different if she was alive and it’s weird to think about how. Would I be married by now? Would I be a veterinarian? Would I still like near my parents? Would I still have pets? Of course, though, my biggest question is would I even have Rheumatoid Arthritis? I’ve always internalized my feelings since well, my mother died. Many of us can agree stress plays an important role in our condition. If I had learned how to handle my emotions properly would I even have this disease?

What lessons have your parents taught you? Let me know in the comments!

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


  • pugpen
    7 months ago

    Hi Monica, I always enjoy reading your post, you’re so down to earth and easy to relate to. I know first hand that stress does indeed play a part in RA flares, but I personally don’t think how a person deal’s with the death of a loved one would actually cause a disease process to begin with–just my opinion. I think disease’s are very complicated beast that develop in us due to a variety of causes/medical reason’s and science is continually trying to get to the root of many disease processes. Once you actually have a disease then yes, I believe stress can exacerbate thing’s ie. flares. Don’t ever blame yourself for bringing on a disease! We all deal with stress in different way’s, for me, ‘talking it out’ helps me deal with a problem/event, but my husband is totally an ‘internalizer’. Perhap’s your posting’s here on this site are helping you to deal with past and present stress? It sounds to me that your mom loved you a lot and taught you some of the most important points in life, in the short time she had with you. She’s watching/guiding you from heaven and some day you’ll be reunited, isn’t that a wonderful thought?! Best wishes! Cheryl

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    7 months ago

    Hey Cheryl!! Thanks so much for the kind comment!! I am so glad you enjoy my articles 🙂

    I 100% get what you’re saying and agree with you. I just find myself playing the “what if” game. I’m sure I already had some pre-disposition to RA, it just needed a way to manifest.

    Your husband sounds like me. I used to internalize everything and you’re right, writing now helps me so much. It’s incredibly therapeutic and I get to deal with stress which I think is good.

    Thank you again so much for commenting. I hope you know how much I appreciate it when you do!! ~Monica

  • Jo J
    9 months ago

    August 31 was my mom’s 3 year death anniversary. My mom had a lot of chronic pain for as long as I can remember (I am 59). She was the first person I knew diagnosed with fibromyalgia about 1982. As she aged she developed hip pain, an odd gait and her hands were shaped different. I know she had been worked up for RA in the past but was negative. Now, when my hips are flaring I notice I have the same gait, and my knuckles resemble hers. I am sero-positive RA; I wonder if she was sero-negative and also had RA? I feel bad that healthcare workers and family members did not recognize her pain as real and considered her a whiner. For some reason, I always felt more sympathy for her. In the last few weeks of her life I tried to get the doctor to put her on routine pain relief because she was obviously in pain and unable to express it. No Go. I requested Hospice for her 3 months before she passed because I knew they would be more diligent about pain control. She was started 2 days prior to her passing. I think of how frustrated I was in the 2 year process of my diagnosis and feel sad for her experience of many more years. I am thankful that she encouraged her daughters to be more confident and pursue an education when she couldn’t. In addition to whatever auto-immune gene she shared with me, she shared many more strengths.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    9 months ago

    hey @j0dspace! Thank you so much for sharing on my article!!! I am so sorry your mother was in so much discomfort in the end and had such difficulty. It just doesn’t seem fair that they nobody would help her in the last weeks of her life.

    It sounds like she was a strong woman who passed down those traits to you!! All the best and thank you again for sharing! (I really appreciate it!!!)


  • Erin Rush moderator
    9 months ago

    I am sorry for the loss of your mother, J0dspace. And I am so very sorry she suffered so much towards the end. It sounds like you did everything you could to make her last days more comfortable. Thank you very much for sharing a part of your story and I hope good memories of your mom filled your thoughts on the anniversary of her passing. Best, Erin, Team Member.

  • betharooski
    9 months ago

    Your mom sounded like she loved you so much! My mom had a chronic disease too and during her illness she encouraged me and my sister to remember to laugh when possible. She would not let us watch horror movies or sad, soppy shows. We watched comedies together and didn’t care if the show was silly. She tried to limit the amount of scarey news stories. She said to not hide from the world—but take a break from it every now and then. I think of her whenever I giggle over I Love Lucy or Carol Burnette on the internet. I miss her too. She had multiple sclerosis back when they did not have modern drugs to help that condition. They do now.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    9 months ago

    Thanks @betharooski!! My mom introduced me to I Love Lucy too!! That’s literally my favorite show in the entire world. Mom would sometimes let me stay up late when there were marathons on TV or she would record episodes for me.

    I am so sorry your mom had MS. It sounds like she was a happy, grounded person who cared deeply for you.

    Thanks for sharing on my article!! ~Monica

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