Mariah and Me – Seven Years Later

It turns out that my friend and fellow blogger Mariah Z. Leach and I received our RA diagnosis about a month apart. Mariah “celebrated” her seventh diagnosis anniversary in June and mine is coming up shortly in July. Mariah has encapsulated her seven-year journey on her personal blog.

Let’s face it, many of us suffered with symptoms months or even years before receiving a diagnosis – so we had the disease, we just didn’t have a name for it. But having a diagnosis is a watershed event. In one moment you go from searching for what’s wrong with you to looking for a treatment plan. You go from being “healthy” to being labeled with a chronic disease. The diagnosis is the first official step to what is currently a life-long journey.

The main takeaway I have from Mariah’s “anniversary” post as well as enjoying her blog these past several years is that RA truly does impact different people differently. There are many similarities, but also striking differences if you look at our separate histories with RA over essentially the same timeframe:

  • Mariah was 25 when she was diagnosed. I was more than twice her age.
  • During that time, she’s had the challenge of managing her disease while starting her family. She’s married and has had two beautiful baby boys. I’ve had three joint replacements and titanium in my back.
    • RA affects everyone differently, but we all have our struggles and we all have our victories.
  • Mariah has done some amazing advocacy work and has become a significant voice in the RA community. I have built on an already successful career and traveled extensively both in the US and overseas.
    • Some people develop disabilities due to RA – but not everyone.
    • RA doesn’t mean that you have to stop living – or loving – your life.
  • In addition to managing our RA, we both have crazy schedules. Mariah keeps up with two demanding, energetic children and still finds time to be active in the RA community. I (more than I’d like) work 70 or 80 hour weeks, manage a household, and find slices of time to contribute to the RA community.
    • Having RA helps you prioritize your life because you only have a finite amount of energy.
    • It helps to have a support structure (spouse, friends, caregiver) because there are some days that you just “can’t” get it all done.
  • We have both searched for that elusive “magic bullet” treatment plan that will bring remission to our lives.
    • There is no cure and no “cookie-cutter” answers for this complex disease. But there is more research, more treatment options, and more hope than ever before.
  • We both have found friends and community through online connections and social media.
    • You may have the disease, but you don’t have to face it alone. Being in contact with people who have already had experiences with the disease or treatments is an amazing benefit.

I think the main thing that Mariah and I have in common is that neither she nor I have all the answers. Heck, even after seven years, I doubt that either of us (or both of us together) have all the questions. But we do have experience. And we, along with a significant part of the other experienced people who read these articles, are part of the overall collective of RA voices that are not only being heard, but being listened to across the wide spectrum of health-care professionals and organizations committed to alleviating or eliminating this disease.

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 (6)
  • DawnBett
    4 years ago

    Thank you so much for giving me an AWESOME idea! I love that you celebrate the day you were given your diagnosis! What a wonderful way to look at the positive side of a chronic disease. I have so much to be thankful for as I have an amazing doctor and medicines that are working for me. I will now celebrate my 5 years this past June with RA!

  • Carla Kienast author
    4 years ago

    Dawn: Happy 5th RAnniversary. Maybe by your 10th we’ll have a cure and really have something to celebrate!

  • Susan Bain
    4 years ago

    I have the greatest respect for Mariah.

    I am 72 years old, and have Osteo-arthritis,(diagnosed in 2002), Rheumatoid Disease, (Diagnosed in 2006, two years after meeting the love of my life, who, bless him, is still with me), as well as CLL,(Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia), diagnosed in 2006, and asthma, acquired last year. To top it off, I have in the last month, been diagnosed with shingles just to jazz things up.

    I can assure you that shingles is extremely painful. In my case,it’s centered in my right hand and arm, which makes all sorts of everyday activities like walking the dog, filling the bird feeders, preparing meals, cleaning bathrooms, etc., etc., incredibly painful. I now use rubber gloves to wash dishes, and wear a glove to protect my hand when outside or when bathing the dog.

    But I am 72 years old. Mariah is coping with rheumatoid arthritis along with all that goes with being a young mother–a time when I was fortunate enough to be very healthy, and which was very demanding indeed.

    Mariah, I simply want to say that I have great respect for your courage. My sense is that you will find ways to cope successfully with all that you undertake, and you have my utmost respect, as I believe you’ll find ways to manage it all successfully.

    There were many excellent points made in this article for anyone coming to terms with how RA changes one’s life. But if we all tackle the challenge with the same spirit that Carla and Mariah do, we’ll manage just fine in the long run.

    Blessings upon you both.

    Susan Bain

  • Carla Kienast author
    4 years ago

    Thank you for the wonderful comments. I agree, Mariah rocks. And so do you, coping with all those difficulties.

  • Mariah Z. Leach moderator
    4 years ago

    Thanks for this insightful article, Carla! I hope we are both able to keep improving our lives as we move forward!
    ~Mariah~

  • Carla Kienast author
    4 years ago

    The coincidence of both of us being diagnosed about the same time certainly gave me the inspiration. Thanks for your support!

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