I've had RA for 17 years now and I'm only 20 but that's fine with me
I was diagnosed when I was three years old. I don't remember much, just that I had to be carried up and down the stairs in a laundry basket and I couldn't play with my siblings outside. That was the hardest part about growing up with RA, not being able to be a "normal" kid. I am a triplet and the other two do not have RA, so they would spent most of their time playing with each other and running around, while I got to sit inside and bake cookies with Grandma. It was hard because there was so much jealousy between us. They thought I was getting special attention and all I wanted to do was go outside and run.To this day I still look ridiculous when I try and run, but at least I can still walk.
Right now I have RA in my ankles, knees, hips, wrists, and fingers. All of which are bad places to have RA if you are in college, or just want to function in life. Going through school has been rough. The other kids making fun of my handwriting , or upset that I got to use markers but everyone else has to use crayons. I thought that was hard until I got to college. Not only did I have to juggle being independent and talking care of myself and going to class, but I also had to deal with figuring out how to take care of my RA. College is already not the healthiest environment. You don't get enough sleep, eat some not so healthy foods especially pizza at one in the morning, and you are so busy hanging out with friends to exercise or just sit and take a break. Not to mention all the stress.
Freshman year I was totally lost about how to handle everything. But this year I'm starting to get the hang of it. But it has not helped that I switched medicines in twice during school, man has that been a battle. There are still some days that I call my mom and tell her how horrible it is that I wanted to play a pick-up game of sand-volleyball but couldn't because I had to take a nap instead or my hip was bothering me. It really does suck that sometimes I have to schedule my life around around my RA, but I haven't let it stop me completely.
In high school I was in marching band for four years. Now that I'm in college, I've slowed down a little, but I am still involved in a lot. I am the secretary of a club on campus, I'm helping to start another club where I will hopefully be the president, I have a campus job, and somewhere in there I also manage to hang out with my friends.
If someone asked me what it's like to have RA I would tell them it is terrible, especially being a young adult. Always having to choose between being responsible for my body or being a carefree college student who makes a few bad choices. But I would also tell that person if it was not for RA I would not be where I am today. Having RA have made me grow up a lot faster. I am very mature for my age, I am also driven, and have a lot of perseverance. But if you ask my mother she'll tell you I am just stubborn. But because of everything that I have been through I have a GPA of 3.89, I've been on the Dean's List since freshman year, and I am studying Community Health Education and Occupational Therapy. I now have one more year left of undergrad, and then it is off to OT school! Because of my RA I want to be able to help people with RA in a more personal way, especially children, because not too long ago I would have been sitting on the other side of that table.
I can't really say that having RA has changed my life, since I've had it practically my whole life. But what I can say is, there have been times when I wished I was"normal", but there have been a lot more times that I am glad that I am not. Without my RA I would not be the person that I am today, that is why I am glad that I have RA!
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