Go Enjoy Your Life
"Go enjoy your life. Really. I mean that seriously. Go enjoy it, 'cause there are people fighting like hell for it." --Claire Wineland
I saw this quote posted on Instagram not too long ago, and it was posted by someone who also struggles with chronic illness (not the author). I saved it to my phone because something about it really struck me; her message is a powerful reminder to look at our lives honestly as well as the lives of others. We're all fighting tough battles every day, but maybe our struggles aren't always quite as bad as we think they are?
Rheumatoid Arthritis: it takes a lot of strength to deal with it
I don't mean or want to diminish anybody's pain or experience, but I think it can be helpful to sometimes step back and out of our own private worlds (or hell) to maybe gain another perspective. I absolutely hate living with RA and what I go through every day struggling with this constant pain and sickness. It's a very serious disease and it takes a tremendous amount of strength to deal with it. However, when I stop to think about it or when I find out about others' health struggles, I realize that my health and life could be worse. A lot, lot worse. And I feel heartbroken when I think about what other people are going through who are hurting even more than I am.
After doing some Google research, I quickly learned who Claire Wineland is, and the sad news headlines announcing her recent death from cystic fibrosis were a shocking discovery. Oh, no, she didn't make it. A week after she received a double lung transplant she suffered a massive stroke on September 2nd and died at age 21. She "fought like hell" for her life and lost. But maybe she didn't completely "lose," as a CNN article describes a little bit about her and the impact she made on others: "She inspired countless people, invited -- no, demanded -- honest talk about illness and mortality, and brightened the worlds of those she touched with her smile, spunk, and spirit."1
I don't in any way want to put my health and illness into the same category as Claire's, but there is something that bothers me a lot when I see other people, especially able-bodied people, complaining about trivial health matters or not taking responsibility for their own health. I get upset and angry when I see people who take it for granted that they can physically go jogging if they wanted to, or even take a long walk, but choose not to--among other activities. I can't do those things. I can't get exercise that way, even if I wanted to. The pain in my feet and ankles wouldn't allow it for very long if I tried.
Continuing to try and fight
I get envious and frustrated when I see people who seem to be wasting their lives working at depressing or unfulfilling jobs, or not going after dreams or goals or doing what they really want to do. These people who can physically be active and hypothetically go and do whatever they want yet don't, they kind of drive me crazy. I want to grab them by the shoulders and shake them and yell, "What are you doing? You're healthy and you have the rest of your life to enjoy and live. Go do it while you can!"
When my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer five years ago, I remember becoming so frustrated and livid with him about his seeming nonchalance and apathy about treating the cancer. You have cancer! Are you nuts? Don't you CARE? I actually wrote about this experience recently in two parts for ProstateCancer.net, "From Patient to Caregiver: Dad's Prostate Cancer." Of course, the main reason I was so upset was because I was worried about him. But I was angry, too, because I felt like his reluctance to take responsibility for his health felt like a big slap in the face to me and to others who work very hard every day at managing our own health. We are fighting like hell, and you should be too! It was a stressful situation and one that eventually turned out OK, thankfully.
While I certainly intend to continue to "fight like hell" to hold onto myself and my life in the middle of the storm that is RA, I also want to remember Claire's words and to "go enjoy it," too.
On a scale of 1(low) to 5(high), how difficult is it for you to talk about having RA?