My “Dear John” Letter for RA

Dear RA,

I truly wish I could write you a “Dear John” letter and say goodbye! How refreshing would it be to dump you and run!

Honestly, you have treated me terribly and have been a horrid Valentine year after year. Between the incremental damage to my joints, the pain, the stiffness and swelling, it has been a terrible relationship. And no matter what I do for you—from various medications to trials of diets and alternative treatments—all I get is thankless indifference.

You never bring me chocolates or flowers. In fact, you’re a terrible gift-giver. I really never wanted my deformed joints and swans necks on my fingers. I didn’t appreciate the nodules and weird random symptoms. I can also do without the strange autoimmune issues, like sudden infections.

My relief has been my own doing, but I keep getting the feeling you’re trying to tear these things away as well! When I had both my hips replaced, I had such a huge relief in pain and improvement in my joints’ mobility. But then it seemed you attacked my knees even more aggressively!

I had to succumb to two knee replacements, which helped me cope with my RA for nearly 20 years. Still, you never left my kneecaps alone. I could feel the gradual erosion of my little remaining original bone in my knee joints. Last year when I had my left knee revision surgery, the culprit was an infection but why do I believe you secretly had something to do with it?

Let’s just say we have trust issues. I don’t at all feel you have my best interests at heart. At every turn, you repeatedly showed maximum effort to undermine and harm me.

When I finally had a number of years of remission, I should have known you were just biding your time and waiting for a flashy comeback. Now many years into my resurgence of RA, I’m on the strongest medications I can tolerate and you’re still hanging in, clawing your way through my system and looking for the last vestiges of cartilage and bone to munch on.

During our 35 year relationship I’ve tried it all—begging, cajoling, bargaining, threatening and more. But my pleas and negotiation tactics fell on deaf ears. So instead I have found my own way to try to cope and live on my own terms.

While I can’t say I appreciate you and all the heartache you’ve brought, I am stronger for it. I am mentally tough and persistent. My joints may hurt, but I have a rich and fulfilling life. Through navigating the disease I have found strength and endurance that has surprised me.

One surprising result of having severe RA is that I find myself to be a secret-weapon of sorts. It happens when people look at me, see my disease and make the decision to underestimate me. While it may sound frustrating, being underestimated is quite liberating because then I am always a surprise and able to exceed expectations. Perhaps this is the one thing of value you have given me?

RA, you are a lousy Valentine and have been one for years. I wouldn’t miss you if you left. When you went into remission, I had all the remnants but didn’t miss you a bit. I think I have given you plenty of chances to turn things around and just don’t feel I owe you anything more. It may be cruel (but not near as cruel as you) to say I’m over you. And in this case, it’s not me that’s the problem—it’s you.

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