I remember that day vividly. It was the day my fears were confirmed. I clenched my husband’s hand as we sat together facing the rheumatologist. You have inflammatory arthritis, she said. I nodded in response, then bowed my head as a tear rolled down my cheek.

Nothing can prepare you for a diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).

An RA diagnosis is hard. Nor can anyone without it really understand what you’re going through. You wouldn’t be sitting in the doctor’s office if you were just a little sick. No, most of us wait until our joint pain is chronic and unbearable before we even mention it. By the time we get to a rheumy (slang for rheumatologist), we are not only in pain, but we are scared.

The doctor made it clear: I couldn’t just ignore my disease because RA wasn’t just in my joints. It was systemic. Without treatment, it could even be deadly.

When I first got the news, I grieved. Was life as I knew it over? Would I still get to do all the outdoor activities I loved? For how long? I read some of the support group boards. Lots of people in pain. That did not give me hope. But then, on Facebook, I saw something that did. My friend Elaine, who has RA, was in Mexico and she was swimming with a dolphin!

While you may have to live with RA, it doesn’t have to define you.

What I learned from Elaine, and what I have experienced in my own life, is that while I may have RA, it doesn’t have to define me. With proper treatment and the right tools to take care of myself, I can live a productive and happy life. While I may have some limitations, my disease has not stopped me. I still kayak and hike. I even hit a few golf balls recently! The key is self-care, in all aspects of life: mental, physical, emotional and spiritual.

Coming to grips with an RA diagnosis takes time. 

No, life won’t be the same again. It will have twists and turns as you learn to manage your disease. But your life isn’t over. You never know, you may still have some of your best days yet! Hold onto hope and check back here at Pack Health as we explore some specific ways you can learn to live with RA.


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