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Young, Swollen, and in Construction

I was very recently diagnosed with RA at the age of 21. It is a diagnosis that is very bittersweet. It is sweet in the fact that I know what has been going on with my body. The bitter part of my diagnosis, is that I won’t be able to pursue my career in construction as soon as I would have wanted to. I am just about to go into my fourth year in college as a Construction Management student. I am passionate about every aspect of construction and love to build little projects as a hobby.

To put my medical history in a few sentences; Three years ago, I randomly started waking up with swollen eyes, throat and mouth. I slowly started to become so lethargic that I would barely make it up a flight of stairs. I saw specialists like the allergist, nephrologist, radiologist, ent, etc. Then went to my first rheumatologist and she never followed up with me or answered my calls.

I have had trouble with my mental health for about 8 years now so this really wasn’t helping at all! As the symptoms started to worsen, and the doctors continued to have no clue for a good two years, I had a mental breakdown last year and was hospitalized for about a week. It was just too much to have my only treatment be sleeping with an EpiPen next to my bed.

After the hospital treatment, and taking care of my mental health, I was refreshed and ready to figure out WHY! I started to see a new rheumatologist who is amazing and she really helped me. I had such a combination of mix matched symptoms, but she was still able to find something that worked for me.

Although I am scared of what he future might hold in terms of my construction career choice, I am hopeful that I will be able to find a good treatment plan. Although I am noticing new aches and pains each day, I am making changes in my diet and lifestyle to help with inflammation. Thank you for reading my story, I hope that if you are going through something similar this story lets you know that there is a treatment for everyone!

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

  • Kathy P.
    2 years ago

    I think we’re l overwhelmed when we first receive our diagnosis and we get a wake-up call about how it will impact our life. It doesn’t mean you have to give up your dreams, but you just haven’t found a workaround yet.

    I’m a goldsmith, which is very intensive on hands. A good occupational therapist, especially a certified hand therapist, will be able to make splints to help you hold hammers and drills. You’ll learn to modify tools with Sugru, VetRap, RTVs and splints. I use padded gel gloves a lot to prevent pressure points inflaming further on my delicate joints. You get or make pliers with spring returns and padded handles. Instead of forging as much, I now use a hydraulic press or rolling mill to replace much of that function. You adapt and move forward.

    Yes, you will have limitations, but they’re just roadblocks that you haven’t figured out how to get around yet. Don’t let it stop you! You may find because of your condition, you’ll go a different and unusual way–which means you’ll find different and unusual solutions.

    Good luck, and let your passion determine what you will accomplish in life.

  • kat-elton
    2 years ago

    Hi there! I’ve lived with JRA since age two and in college I decided that I wanted to be an occupational therapist. When I told my rheumatologist at the time, he replied, “I think you should pursue becoming a psychologist instead.” Although I really appreciated his interest in me I didn’t follow his advice and went on to do O.T. At 48 years old now, OT is no longer possible for me but I never regretted my decision because it was the career I wanted and for 15 years I did it successfully. Even if construction isn’t a forever career for you why not do what you love as long as you can? People without RA change careers for various reasons all the time, there is no shame in this. I can relate to not wanting to appear ” weak, or unmotivated,” as I struggled with this for many years but I later realized that a matter-of-fact explanation with people goes a long way, because once people know what you live with every day physically they will see your actions in a very different light and understand that you are not only working as hard as most, but much harder. Thanks so much for your article, I know you will do well and we are here for you all the way!! XO

  • ss3867 author
    2 years ago

    Thank you so much for your comment! I completely agree and I really do thank you for giving me your insight.

  • Ed Burgoyne moderator
    2 years ago

    OOPS! Sorry for the mix up.
    As for your choice in the construction trades, just let your work speak for you. If things get too bad for you to swing the hammer (so to speak) because of RA, every new job needs quality minds to keep things running smoothly from project managers and site coordinators to customer service.

  • Ed Burgoyne moderator
    2 years ago

    Keep fighting young man.
    You have a lot of life left to enjoy.

  • ss3867 author
    2 years ago

    Haha I didn’t even realize I didn’t say anything about being a woman in construction!

    It is actually one of the main reasons why I am struggling so much because this field is so much more competitive for me in particular. I feel like if I show any sings of weakness with my classmates or co-workers they are going to think of me as just another weak woman who shouldn’t be wasting her time in construction. Your reputation is all you have in this industry so only my close non-construction friends and family know. I just have to get over this mental hurdle, I’ll get through it eventually!

    Thank you so much for your kind words!

  • 2mra
    2 years ago

    Thank you for sharing your story. There is just no accounting for some Specialists. Maddening! I’ve had severe RA/RD since I was 24. It wrecked my life. My job went down the tubes. I had planned on going back to work after my youngest was in grade 2, but my Doc said that I had enough in my life to look after without working an outside paying job. Sadly, I knew he was right. I did another job at home also but it’s wasn’t the same at all, as what I had been doing.

    I love your passion for your career. I wish you the very best for it and for your RD to go into remission with your medications.

  • ss3867 author
    2 years ago

    Thank you so much! Sometimes the truth is really hard to take especially when the doctors don’t tell you what you want to hear. I hope that you stumble upon a new hobby or something that you are equally as passionate about that is also easier on your body! Good luck with everything

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