“It’s all down hill from 30”

My 31st birthday present came early; my first visit to my rheumatologist. I don’t know what I was expecting exactly but he is a lovely man, who is a fan of Audrey Hepburn which gives him lots of cool points in my opinion! He also bulk bills so I wasn’t out of pocket which is another huge plus! I left the hospital with a handful of paperwork, pathology slips, prescriptions, a follow up appointment in three weeks time and an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I dutifully filled my prescriptions, got my blood tests and tried to put it all out of my mind… something which is easier said than done unfortunately. I had the excruciating pain and mind numbing fatigue to remind me that something was very wrong with my body.

By the time my follow up appointment came around the feeling in the pit of my stomach could no longer be ignored and I was craving answers. I could tell from the second I sat down in his office that the Rheumatologist had bad news. It was written all over his face, he probably shouldn’t play poker! Then the words I was afraid of all along came out of his mouth, “It’s Rheumatoid Arthritis.” I knew all at once how serious it was and I was immediately afraid of a lot of things, how the disease would progress, joint deformity, dangerous medications, relying on others, not being able to work anymore, never returning to full contact sport again just to mention a few.

I once again left his office with a handful of prescriptions and a follow up appointment.

Since the day of my diagnosis two short months ago everything has changed, I am still having a lot of pain and stiffness and I am still exhausted sometimes from sleepless nights due to pain and sometimes no amount of sleep will make me feel rested. I have been trying my very best to not complain as I don’t want to start, mainly because I am afraid I will never stop. I am trying to be as active and social as I can because I don’t want to be defined by my illness. Whenever I can I am trying to educate people that RA is an autoimmune disease and no amount of fish or krill oil will cure me.

I have found a huge amount of support through a select few close friends, my immediate family and also via social media, I search the hashtags #rheumatoidarthritis and #spoonie multiple times a day just to make contact with other people experiencing similar things to me. Although I do not personally identify with the spoon theory per se (by Christine Miserandino) but I can definitely relate to the “but you don’t look sick”.

I am currently working with my rheumatologist to determine the best course of treatment as this is all pretty new to me and I would be lying if I said I was ok with my diagnosis, I am angry and I am afraid.

I do not know how this will progress and I do not know the effect it will have on my future. I went from feeling like I was too old; dreading being 31 to immediately feeling like I was far too young to be affected by arthritis. The only real regret I have is not fully loving and appreciating my body; I wasted time hating on it because my legs weren’t long enough or I wasn’t thin enough. I should have loved my body for all it could do without pain while I had the chance.

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