Story 1 (As told by my mother)

My mother always recommended that I keep a journal. She was the sheer motivator behind the hundreds of pages I’ve found myself on. When she passed away, I found her journal that had many pages filled with her short-hand. This story, which was written in I presume to be about 2007, is absolutely true and a little heart-breaking. I know that my mom was proud of how she was able to move on from her disease, and I am proud of her, too. So that is my motive behind sharing this publicly.

“It all came on so suddenly, one day I was fine and the next not at all. I had been with my husband for twelve years, we had our own home and two wonderful children. To avoid the expense of day care and not spending enough time with the kids, I worked nights as a bartender while my husband worked during the day.

I remember as if it was yesterday. My arms hurt almost as if they were burning, not knowing what was wrong, I began taking Aspirin. I increased my dose in just a few days to nine per day, and this didn’t help. I began dropping glasses and bottles while at work. I knew something was wrong but afraid to find out what it might be, the worst of the unmentionable diseases were going through my mind.

The first doctor really had no clue and referred me to a specialist who ran many tests. I began to research on my own while waiting for the results. All the symptoms pointed to Rheumatoid Arthritis but there were definitely some differences. The results confirmed it was Rheumatoid Arthritis. Knowing this was a chronic disease and I was only thirty, I was still relieved. Many other diseases had gone through my mind that were far worse.

The doctor referred me to a specialist and to my surprise, he suggested therapy. I thought the man was insane, I had everything under control. No doubt I could take care of my family and this also. Repeatedly I had been told my case was extremely severe, but I still stayed strong and trudged on.

About six months went by and I discovered I could not continue bar tending. My grip had gotten progressively worse. I bowed out and began waitressing, this was a little better but not for long. My body was being beat up from the physical side of the job. By now, the RA had settled in my legs as well. I could not keep up with the rest of the crew. I had also built up an immunity to the medication. As embarrassed as I was, for the first time in my life, I could not pull my own weight, at home or work. The doctor kept changing my medications and my body kept rejecting them. I had no choice but to stop working. Never in my life had I felt pain like this before. I became incapable of normal functions. All I did was lay in bed. This went on for three or four months, I was at the point of giving up. I just wanted the pain to go away. Depressed and no hope in sight at this point.

A few more days passed and the kids stood at the side of the bed and just looked at me and simply said, “mom, please get up.” Well this was more therapy than I could ever seek from a professional. I looked back at the kids and realized that I wasn’t ready to give up, there was still too much life left and I didn’t want to miss it.

I did what my children instructed and with their help and my husband’s I made it, I worked through the pain and didn’t let it get me down again. The doctor finally got the medications right and after six months I finally went back to work. Though I stayed away from the physical jobs, I found a part-time office position that worked well with the kids schedules and eventually moved to full time.

Over the past eight years there has definitely been some bumps along the way. I have realized what my limitations are and learned to live with them. I on’t let the disease rule my life anymore. Most people have no idea that I have this disability. When people ask “how do you do it?” I simply say, “It’s just a part of life.'”

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