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.

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