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Thank you, RA!

Thank You, RA!

In honor of and inspired by Thanksgiving this year, which has recently passed, I’ve decided to write a little letter to my RA. Don’t worry, I haven’t gone completely nuts and I do realize that RA is not a human being or an entity to which one can send letters. However, like a real live human–a friend, spouse, or a stalker who won’t leave me alone–my RA has been firmly attached to my life for 18 years. During those years, I’m sure I’ve written countless “letters” to this disease in my head: infuriated, grief-stricken, fearful pleas to go away and stop ruining my life. I’m really tired of those letters, however, and I’d prefer to reflect on some of the good things that RA has brought into my life. What good can come from having a severely painful chronic illness? A lot, actually.

Dear RA,

Thank you for the invaluable friendships and personal connections I’ve made in the RA community and beyond because of having RA. It’s unlikely that I would have met many of the people I now feel honored to call friends if I never had the disease. In late 2007 I began my little RA blog which was the starting point for making most of these connections. I gained a wonderful network and community of kind, supportive, creative, funny, and interesting people that I would not have met otherwise. I’m so grateful to know you all!

Thank you for helping to increase my compassion, patience, and empathy for others. Living with RA for so long has made me more cognizant and understanding of other people’s suffering, I think, and especially if it’s health-related. I’m not sure if I would feel the same way, or as deeply, if I didn’t have RA myself.

Thank you for inspiring me to get involved with advocacy work. Being diagnosed with RA at the young age of 18, I hadn’t done much volunteering or advocacy work prior to getting the disease. I do remember being interested in social justice and human rights as a teenager, though. Suddenly having a serious illness myself almost immediately kickstarted my interest in arthritis and health advocacy work–which continues to be very important to me today. As a patient myself, I’m deeply passionate about wanting to help others receive the best healthcare possible and to continue fighting for a cure for RA.

Thank you for helping me to appreciate my feisty Italian grandma, Nana, and everything she went through having RA herself. Unlike me, Nana got RA when she was in her 60s, I believe, and I spent my childhood seeing her immense pain, disability, and suffering. I didn’t really understand what I was witnessing though until RA struck me right before starting college. Since her death in 2003, my appreciation and understanding of what an incredible woman she was has only grown. When I was a child and teenager, I didn’t realize just how much physical and emotional pain she must have gone through while living with severe RA–especially during a time when there weren’t as many effective treatments and medications available (pre-biologics). Despite her pain and all of the losses she suffered (she loved to sew, cook, and travel until physically unable), Nana was always such a positive and active person. As cliché as it might sound, she really did try to live life to the fullest–despite RA. I wish I had told her more how much I love, admire, and respect her.

Thank you for Ireland. Ireland? Yes, Ireland! In October 2000 I raised over $4,000 for The Arthritis Foundation and participated in my first marathon in Dublin, Ireland. I was only able to walk 9 miles due to both feet flaring up severely, but it was a wonderful experience and it introduced me to Ireland for the first time. Ireland and I got along pretty well (I loved it there) and I decided to study abroad in Cork my final year of college. Moving to Ireland for a semester as a college student at University College Cork was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. There I developed real, kindred friendships with others from Ireland and other countries that I still greatly treasure today. Some of the most exciting, enlightening, adventurous, and meaningful experiences I’ve had in my life were in Cork during that time. Who knows, maybe I would have gone to Ireland even if I didn’t have RA? What I do know is that RA put me on a path that led to Cork, and for that I’m so thankful.

And, last but not least–thank you RA for continually reminding me to not take my health and life for granted. The uncertain and unpredictable nature of the disease, while often maddening and frightening, serves as a constant and important lesson to realize just how short life is. I think RA has helped to push me to do and try things that I maybe otherwise wouldn’t if I didn’t have the disease. Not knowing when or where or if you might become unable to physically do certain things can make living just a little more urgent, perhaps. I don’t want to miss opportunities or wait until it’s too late to experience or accomplish things. I also want to appreciate the times when my health is stable and doing well along with other areas of my life.

In closing, thank you RA for all of these things you’ve given me and for many others I haven’t mentioned. While most of the time I think of you as a nasty dark curse on my life that snatches away my happiness, I know that you are also a strangely beautiful gift.

With sincere thanksgiving,

Angela

P.S. Here’s one more thank-you for inspiring me to actually complete the Dublin marathon in October 2003! I wouldn’t have been able to raise another $4,000 and walk the entire 26.2 miles on swollen feet without your motivating influence. Crossing the finish line and falling into the welcoming arms of my friend Rachel after walking for over 8.5 hours was a truly priceless and unforgettable experience.

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

  • thegallopinggrandma
    2 years ago

    Hi Angela from the far SW of Ireland ! I really liked your positive outlook to life and like you, I have had RA for a long time now, but I tend to treat it positively and make the most of my life. I love to travel and have found other ways of getting around – such as on a sailing boat in the Aegean Sea….. quite wonderful and a great deal easier than I anticipated ! If you don’t try, you don’t find out how easy things can be ! Keep up the blogging !

  • retiredbutton
    2 years ago

    You are right to look at the bright side. Certainly my perspective has changed in the last dozen years since my RA diagnosis. Being a teacher, I can tell you it has changed how I deal with parents as well as students. I have backed off so many people during these years that I would have usually pushed on harder. How do I know what people feel like? I don’t tell hardly anyone what is wrong with me–especially parents and students!! We learn to be kinder. We learn to be the nice little old lady at the end of the block that the children stop to talk to on the way home from school.

  • Angela Lundberg author
    2 years ago

    Hello!
    Thank you for your comment and perspective. And thank you for all the hard work you do as a teacher. 🙂

  • 2mra
    2 years ago

    LOL Rick!!! Here Here!!! 🙂

  • 1e620rb
    2 years ago

    Well written. May even print it and keep it as a reminder.
    Never give up, never give in!

  • Angela Lundberg author
    2 years ago

    Thanks so much! I agree–never give up and never give in! Things always get better (I think).

    Thank you for commenting!

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips
    2 years ago

    Angela:

    Thank you so much for our friendship.

    rick

    —-

    Dear RA,

    You suck. So take Angela’s letter and understand that because we live with you and value the things you allow us to experience, you still suck (just saying).

    rick

  • Angela Lundberg author
    2 years ago

    Aw thank YOU, Rick! I also like and completely agree with your RA letter. 🙂

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