Here’s the very first writing assignment I ever had to complete in University! It had to be a personal essay that convinced the reader you were changed by some kind of experience in your life. Even though this is an essay, it is true. This has impacted my life. I might blog about it some time in a less formal manner. Be thankful for you health! You never think its gonna be you and then one day it is and it can be pretty devastating to cope with that.

Written May 27, 2008

Who am I? It is a big question that fills the minds of many people all over the world at different times in their lives.  This identity struggle is a continual battle in our minds, but little do we realize that we just are who we are and can not help it.  Many things happen in our lives to shape us and makes us who we are.  Sometimes big thigns happen. I have known what it is to be trapped inside your body and I have seen through the eyes of the elderly and the disabled.  As my health fluctuated back and forth I gained a new insight and understanding in life that I will always carry with me.  Junior Rheumatoid Arthritis has changed my life.

It all started in early October 2005.  Like most teenage girls are I was self conscious of the way I looked, jealous of trendy girls, and worried what others thought of me.  I was seventeen years old and in my last year of high school.  I was aspiring for my drivers licence, excited about my school exchange program and upcoming graduation.  The pain came gradually as did the swelling and frustration.  My doctor had just quit his practice due to a terminal illness and I was in the middle of searching for a new one.  I went to several different physicians who had a tough time diagnosing me.  This was fairly logical as arthritis does not run in my family and I have never had a medical history of any such thing before.  In the meantime, they threw all kinds of anti-inflammatories and pain killers at me that did not seem to help at all, and the pain got worse.  Much worse.

I recall vividly the sharp pain in almost all my joints that affected every part of my day.  I would wake up and scarcely have the strength or ability to turn off my alarm, lift my blankets off of myself or even get dressed.  The fourteen stairs from my room on the bottom floor to the main living area on the top floor became my enemy.  I would take careful stock of what I needed to take with me up or down the stairs so as to limit the arduous trips.  I could not twist a door knob or the lid off my medication.  which I found ironic.  I needed assistance turning the taps for a shower since my swollen fingers and sore wrists would not cooperate with me.  One day stands out in particular. I tried to gingerly put my shoes on as usual but instead experinced excruciating shotting pains.  In response I swore through gritted teeth and became terribly angry and frustrated realizing I could not even express my anger through movement.  I could not force my foot into the shoe, nor could I kick it out of the way and storm off.  I was only able to stand there helplessly, crying tears of frustration, wondering at my inability to perform such a menial everyday task.

Despite my daily suffering I did not want my close knit community of peers and teachers to know about my trial.  I did my best to hide my abnormality from the world outside of my home.  I endured the hour long bus ride in discomfort and barely made it down those big three steps off the bus when we got to school.  My locker was upstairs so I would forfeit socializing in the morning and between classes to give myself time to get up and down with the needed books for each subject.  The exchange students had come and the foreigners in our country looked at me as though I was the stranger.  They couldn’t figure out, along with my peers, my awkward gait, the pained expressions, the pent up anger, and the reluctance to be involved in group activities.  I caught weird looks, got curious questions or rude comments from people wondering why I climbed those stairs so slowly.  The few people who did know, cared, but lacked an understanding of waht I was really enduring.  I did not blame them for this or wish they would know or ever experience it themselves.  It only left me feeling very alone and isolated with what God had placed on my path.

As these symptoms carried on my life loomed in front of me.  I wanted my life to be full of possibility and new opportunities, of my favorite sports and activities, of a career, marriage and kids of my own.  Instead, I was faced with endless suffering, limited options concerning activities and careers, and the reality that I did not have the ability to run my own house, much less do my part in taking care of a husband and kids.  Even more unlikely was the possibility taht someone would care to burden himself to marry a girl, such as myself, and that I would be able to go through the process of having a child.  The term, “Life is short, live it to the fullest”, meant nothing to me as each day stretched out endlessly before me in chronic pain, frustration, and tears.  In addition to that, every day I saw all my loved ones at a loss, helpless to do anything for me and faces that could not comprehend the situation or the difficulties I dealt with.

I began to worry that my personality would, indeed, change drastically due to the persistent presence of arthritis in my life.  There was no relief for me.  If I sat too long I would get very stiff and sore; if I stood or walked to much I would also be sore.  It was a lose-lose situation I had no control over.   I started to think that if things continued in this manner bitter thoughts and loneliness would take over where my sense of humor and interest in otheres had been.  I worried that I would lose resilience during this adversity and I would eventually become completely obsessesed with my own struggles.  I was afraid to sink into the mire of self pity that was calling my name.  You may be thinking that this bleak outlook and absence of hope that encircled my life in a multitude of dark clouds would have driven me to suicidal thoughts or drug abuse, but it did not.  With the help of loved ones around me, I prevailed.

Three months later I visited the specialist in Vancouver.  My symptoms had slowly subsided and disappeared except for a few swollen fingers.  As I waited for my turn to see the doctor, I sat opposite a lady who had severely swollen joints; her body was bent irregularly in spots.  She looked miserable, bitter, and there was a deep sadness and sense of loss that radiated off her.  I wanted to cry.  At that moment I realized that this lady in front of me was how I had been envisioning myself years down the road.  There I was, sitting almost completely normal again absorbing the fact that I might still have a second chance at life while thsi lady seemingly did not.  The specialist confirmed for me within five mintues of our visit that I had been dealing with arthritis.  He concluded that it must have been a weird virus.  After some brief questions and another check up appointment had been scheduled I was allowed to leave again.

My health had returned and I felt like myself again but with different eyes.  I had a new perspective.  This new outlook on life made me thankful for every step that took me up a flight of stairs.  It motivates me to go excercise and helps me to understand those who are disabled.  I am no longer intimidated by people around me because I have learned that life should not be spent worrying about the frivoulous things of what to wear or what everyone thinks.  It’s about living every moment to its fullest potential and being grateful for the health and blessings taht have been given.  It’s about taking every opportunity and being the best you can be.

My experience had taken its toll on my mind and my body.  It had tested my patience and tolerance.  It showed me who loved me and taught me who I could trust when things got tough.  My trial refinded me and built my character.  Junior Rheumatoid Arthritis had taken away my life for a short while, but with recovery I became aware taht it had also given me a new one.