Sixteen and....battling RA?

Last updated: February 2015

The hardest part of being diagnosed with RA as a young adolescent was that no one believed it was true. Even my primary care doctor didn't believe me at first. After over a year of symptoms, I had decided to schedule an appointment. His response to my worries? "Growing pains." Excuse me, doctor, I've been done growing for years. This 5'4 beauty is NOT getting any taller. At a later visit, I showed him my mysteriously swollen ankle (it looked like a purple water balloon), and he responded with "Huh, that IS impressive" and gave me a recommendation for a local rheumatologist.
My very best friend since grade school had decided to tell me (loudly, in front of my entire freshman P.E. class), "You have MENTAL arthritis, it's all in your head." At least I got that out of my diagnosis - a chance to prove her wrong.
The year of my diagnosis came along with many doctors visits, blood tests, pamphlet readings, prayers, tears, knee braces, and meds. My weekly medicine box was overflowing and eventually included reminders for weekly injections as well. I was also switching high schools and trying to find a place to fit in. My daily thought process seemed to be, "Why me?"
Now, I'm 20 years old and a junior in college. I've come to embrace my illness, and the community that comes with it. I've begun to find ways to get involved and to spread awareness about invisible illnesses and what they mean. Every day is a fight. My best friends, my family, and my boyfriend all struggle to understand just what I go through. But it makes me who I am. My illness does not define me. How I handle it defines me.

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