two hands hold a blood vial containing a small little flare/flame

The Life-Changing Moment of Being Diagnosed with RA

I will never forget the moment when, after thoroughly examining every joint and limb on my body, my rheumatologist meekly blurted: “Mr. Advent, even if your blood tests come back normal, I would still confidently diagnose you with rheumatoid arthritis.”

Apparently, the physical manifestations of my rheumatoid arthritis were alarming.

My rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis

Little did I know that my tests would not come back normal. In fact, my rheumatoid factor and inflammation markers were so high, my rheumatologist immediately started me on treatment for RA. For reference, my RF was 276, my ESR was around 50, and my anti-CCP was greater than 250.

I sat in the doctor's office for a while after he left. I looked down at my hands resting with their palms up. In between those palms, I saw the life I had previously lived forming a white-blue porcelain bowl, and this new diagnosis pushed that bowl through my hands. All I could do was watch it shatter into a million pieces on the cold, sterile floor.

I tried to push my RA symptoms away

What made the diagnosis even worse was that the time right before this diagnosis was exceptionally wonderful and intellectually engaging.

I had just returned from Dorchester, England, where I was conducting research for my honors thesis and from studying abroad in London. While in London, I was able to transgress a lot of the problems and fears I had grown accustomed to in my childhood and adolescence. I was able to travel on my own, become more independent, find more parts of myself than I could imagine, and engage critically with texts I had studied at university for a long time. It was such a period of love and light and intellectualism. I wish I could go back to that time.

I wanted to revel in my new found independence

I recognize that part of my glorification of that time in England is partially due to the fact that my RA was getting worse and worse. I’ve talked about this before in previous articles, but to explain further, I was having a hard time even just washing in the shower. I couldn’t lift my shoulders above my head to wash my back. When I would wake up in the morning, I could not move my feet to use the restroom; I literally had to shuffle my feet together in order to move.

Even with these experiences, I tried to squash it down and just revel in the feeling of being independent and alive.

I felt lost and hopeless

But, now is not those times. Fast forward from that life-changing moment of receiving my diagnosis, I’ve had RA for over two years and have been on Humira for a year and a half. I work full time, in addition to writing for RheumatoidArthritis.net, and taking graduate classes for my MA.

Things won't always be terrible

In fact, I’m living the future that I so desperately wanted two years ago. When I was first diagnosed, I felt so lost and hopeless, like I had been confined to this disease for the rest of my life and that things would always be terrible. Well, while the disease will be here forever, things are not always terrible. And that’s a bright spot that I needed, particularly in reliving this story.

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