How Russell Crowe's Tooth Made My Day

When you live with a disease like rheumatoid arthritis, a big part of the experience is one of loss. We lose the ability to do jobs we love, participate in activities that we once took for granted; we even lose the ability to have a good nights sleep. Over the 46 years that I've lived with JRA I've lost both of my wrists to fusions, I lost my front tooth when I face planted on a tile floor after fainting from a medication, and I recently lost much of my ability to rotate my neck because I had to have surgery to fuse my first and second vertebrae.

RA and loss

For awhile after each of these losses I have a bad habit of obsessively paying attention to what I've lost: the way people move their wrists, seeing everyone else's beautiful front teeth, and most recently constantly seeing people casually move their necks in ways that I never will. I've written before about the fact that during challenging times I choose to read about survival stories, people who beat the odds, people who live through extreme adversity and come out the other side because this helps me to know that I can too. But another thing that I sometimes do to distract myself from pain or unhelpful feelings is to get on YouTube and watch people who I'm curious about. People like Russell Crowe.

Now I have to admit that I'm one of the millions of women that adore him, but not for the reason that you think. Sure he's handsome enough to swoon, but he reminds me of my brother, he's dedicated to his craft and really good at it, and he's an entertaining storyteller. One day I was randomly watching Russell Crowe on YouTube and I found a short interview on the Graham Norton Show. He was talking about the beginning of his acting career. Apparently, as a teenager, he got hit badly by an opponent in a rugby game and the guy knocked out his front tooth. I've been to Australia two times and there are certain things I really admire about the people who live there. They seem to be more humble and less flashy than their American counterparts. So, Russell, being a young, not so flashy Australian thought it was a good idea to go on hundreds of auditions with a broken front tooth. He didn't understand why he never got the job. Until one day he did, with one condition. The director said, “Russell, I'll give you the part but you have to fix your damn tooth!” The director paid for the fix and off he went.

An Epiphany

As I listened to Mr. Crowe tell his story, I had an epiphany. For the whole year after I had cracked my front tooth in half and had to get two crowns, I had been feeling sorry for myself. Even though everyone around me told me that I had rabbit teeth before and that I looked much better, I was quite attached to those rabbit teeth and I missed them. I miss them to this day. But I realized something in that moment watching YouTube; with every loss comes gain. Russell gained a career, and whether I wanted to admit it or not, I gained a better-looking mouth. When I lost my wrists to fusions, I gained a life with less pain. Now with my neck fusion, I may not be able to rotate my head as much or mountain bike the way I used to. I was actually getting pretty good riding over rocks with a big grin on my face. But I won't stop riding a bike, I'll just be doing it differently. My husband and I are planning on getting a camper van one day so we can explore the country more. I'm thinking about learning how to write fiction next, so I can turn some of these crazy life adventures that I find myself in into a book that will entertain and inspire. Because of the serious nature of the surgery, I'm needing to spend two months living with my parents who live thousands of miles away from me and we are able to spend valuable time together; we are learning about each other and growing closer in ways we never have before. I've gained some new things to be excited about.

Life is about change and life is about faith. There are no guarantees and nothing ever stays the same. This disease, as hard as it is every day to live with also helps me to understand these basic facts of life. It helps me to be a better person as I accumulate the wisdom that comes with all the loss. It helps me to grow my gratitude as I gain new skills after losing old ones and as a result, it makes me more excited to be alive. Just as I grow weary of the pain and think to myself, “I'm not sure if I can keep doing this year after year,” all of a sudden something like this happens and I want to live another hundred years so that I can keep learning and keep growing, and keep doing more of the things I've discovered that I love.

As much as my JRA is my nemesis, as much as I hate to admit this, it is the best teacher and maybe even in some ways, the best friend I could ever have. So thanks, Russell Crowe, and thanks JRA for making me the person that I am today.

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