I never have been able to get my mind around pain. We are told to respect it but it is inconceivable to me to respect something that takes and never gives. I am so very fortunate after 30 + years of living with RA to have never received a joint replacement. Many of the angels in my life have had 2 to 22 replacements and then replacement of the replacements. I admire their strength. My shoulder has been in the last stages of function for several years and I was told about a month ago that it has significantly progressed since last year. Don’t I know it. The pain isn’t quite relentless, which I am told is the time to have it replaced. The past few weeks have been difficult. Frankie (our Boston Terrier) brings such joy to the family and his jest for life can’t be contained. I am bruised and torn in various places — feel like the Velvetine Rabbit! Absolutely great to be loved so much but…my shoulder has flared from all the play and walking of sweet Frank. Got the joint injected and I’m suppose to go to PT (just haven’t made the time).
Night can be the most challenging. Waking up hurting and unable to find a comfortable position to fall back to sleep. I have found if one joint acts up, another soon follows. Now my left hip and my right shoulder hurts and I hate sleeping on my back. End up getting up, drinking hot tea and taking something for the pain. This usually takes a minimum of 30 minutes to an hour.
Ironically, I am beginning to enjoy the night hours. Alone with my thoughts and prayers. Its not always easy and it sure gets old but you can usually find some little piece of goodness in most of life’s struggles. Be at peace with your day and look for the good–you’ll find it.
When I worked for the UAB Arthritis Center, I was charged with putting out a newsletter for the patients to help educate and motivate them toward a better quality of life. My husband, Craig and I came up with a comic strip called, Spilt Milk, to include to add some humor about the ironies of life with RA. Dr. Lorish had a page in every issue called Makin’ Lemonade. Before ever working at the Arthritis Center, this column had a profound affect on my life. (Perhaps on another day, you would be interest to hear more.)
If you were a young adult when diagnosed with RA, I am sure you can identify with the perils of parking in a handicapped parking space. RA has so many hidden impairments that strangers frequently feel it is their duty to remind you that you don’t look handicapped to them. Craig and I agreed that this would be a good subject for the strip. Craig is a retired comic book artist. He worked for the big companies in New York (Marvel, DC, etc) on and off for 20 years.
When someone would stop me back when I was young(er), Craig would tell me that it was an opportunity to educate. Well I don’t know about you but I don’t want to think about having RA all the time. One of my best coping devices is to smile and fake it. I didn’t and don’t feel I have to justify my right to a parking space. Mainly because even to this day, if I tell people that I have RA, now instead of saying I look “too young,” they often say — it IS only in your hands, isn’t it? I’m tired and covering for some amount of pain (always) and just want to get in the store to get what I need without crying. I simply don’t have the energy or reserves to “educate” so I often give them the picture they need and limp into the store with a big frown on my face.
This has negative ramifications for me. They walk away and probably don’t give me another thought and I walk away with my illusion shattered. Yep, you are that “crippled” “deformed” woman with RA you were trying to pretend you weren’t — it is like getting ready in the morning and not really looking at yourself and suddenly focusing on your hands — it still shocks me to see them reflected back. They can’t be mine. Mine are capable hands that get the job done.
Craig says I am much more than a set of hands to him. He said that 20 years ago. (Talk about the ironies of life, now Craig’s hands are more problematic than mine. I can’t get into that today.) Bless his little heart. I seem to have left the comic strip story — we did the strip for a few years, until I left the Arthritis Center in 1987. Ice Mac Sea, our dear friend, said he would post a few of the strips for me if I can locate them. If you are interested, check back.
It is a beautiful day and time is passing by — I remain in the fight with a smile on my face — and best get moving.
Palm trees have a special quality they can bend in high forceful winds. Sturdy Oak trees are no match for forceful winds. Unable to withstand the power behind hurricanes they fall and often become uprooted. These winds are no challenge for Palm trees. They simply wait out the storm, show resilience, and bounce back. Some say Palm trees have a rooting system that when bent and pushed strengthens giving new growth.
With rheumatoid arthritis, flares can be forceful and fierce working to destroy and bend the joints. The force and resulting pain can be challenging to overcome. But God gave us the ability to bend without breaking our spirit. Flares will come and go and the storms of life will threaten us. With God we can withstand all incoming threats to steal our joy and break our spirits. With each storm we weather, we build resilience and strength. Be like a Palm tree, wait it out in faith and bounce back as soon as you can. God is a God of restoration. He will renew your spirit – no set back can keep you from your God-given destiny.
(Palm tree analogy and description from It’s Your Time, Joel Osteen)