Reaping rewards from RA
Finding ourselves coping with a chronic disease like Rheumatoid Arthritis can often corner us into a place of negativity where we are unable or unwilling to consider what positives have come from this journey.
The fact is that after managing RA for 20+ years there are indeed a number of things that have been positive and might not have been in my life were it not for RA. One is my ability to be flexible and resilient. If we learn one thing from RA and its chaotic nature it is that we have to be able to function and adjust “on the fly” since we are never 100% certain that our RA is under control. That little piece of knowledge, once totally assimilated, is invaluable in every aspect of your life, far beyond disease management. I can make plans and still adjust them in the blink of an eye at this point. I am well aware that even if I am certain that things will unfold or events happen in a specific way, they may not! That lesson has given me a degree of calm and willingness to be flexible no matter the situation. A great lesson to have learned.
Another “gift” from RA is my ability to advocate for myself in the medical world. I had no idea until I faced a chronic disease requiring management and vigilance that I could be so comfortably assertive when the need arose. I was one of those people who took what I was told by medical professionals as gospel and that was that. Well, life and RA have taught me differently. Now I work with my medical team as an equal and vocal partner to ensure that the decisions are mine as well as theirs. That in turn has pushed me to stay up to date on the latest medical research and treatments and protocols about RA. I can say with confidence that the medical folks I work with deeply respect that I am informed and an active participant in the treatment decisions for the disease. They agree that folks who do take that on are much more compliant with the protocols and are better disease managers than those who take a more passive role. Additionally, this carries over to other medical situations not only for me but for family and friends as well. I am seen by many of my family and friends as kind of a go to person when it comes to medical issues. Another nice reward.
A huge reward for me are the many many wonderful people I have met over the years, from online friends to our very special local RA support group. Such wonderful and long lasting friendships that I will forever treasure. The other day my brother asked me if I would have known any of the folks in my group if not for the RA. I thought about it and said very likely not, now that you mention it. I mean some of us live in other towns in the county plus we are rural here in Vermont so you can go years without seeing someone you even know in the next town! Very possible I would never have had the absolute joy and pleasure of meeting, caring and enjoying the wonderful people I now consider dear friends. The RA brought us together and that is a real gift.
My appreciation of feeling good and enjoying what that means to me in terms of day to day living is something RA is surely responsible for. I no longer take for granted a day without pain, swelling, fatigue or some other symptom of this chronic disease. I enjoy the simplest pleasures so much more keenly than pre-RA; a sunset while lounging on my back porch with my husband, a day at the beach enjoying the surf and sand, holiday celebrations with my family and the list goes on.
I have truly learned from my years with RA that in order to successfully and joyfully move through life with a chronic disease I need to see those silver linings and appreciate that there are indeed rewards to reap from RA.