Living "Young" Despite Rheumatoid Arthritis - Patricia's Story

*** From: Patricia F. ***

I am a 52 years "young" woman who has rheumatoid arthritis(RA) and neurofibromatosis(NF). I am someone most would call very physically disabled because I need help with doing many things. My health problems started when I was 24 and needed surgery to remove a benign tumor (NF) from the base of my spine. Within a few months after the surgery my life of chronic pain began. It wasn't long before I had to stop working and start seeing many different doctors in order to figure-out the right type of pain management for me. That took another 2-3 years total, during which time I had a brain aneurysm. Fortunately the outcome of that surgery was all positive; I had no complications what-so-ever.

By age 35 I was having problems with swelling, pain and stiffness primarily in my hands and feet. My family doctor referred me to a rheumatologist but it took almost 2 years for me to be diagnosed conclusively with RA. By then my hands had already started to change due to joint damage. Also, for some reason the doctors couldn't explain, my body did not respond well to medications traditionally used to treat RA pain or those used to help fight the progression of damage to the joints. So my RA advanced rather quickly resulting in joint replacement surgeries in both hands and my cervical spine.

Now that I've given some of the highlights of my complicated health history I'll try to summarize what I've learned along the way. First, disease does not discriminate. It doesn't care about the age, color, education, faith or income of it's victims. That being said, for all those so fortunate to be in good health, please consider giving some of your time to help someone who is sick or disabled. I understand that it's not so easy these days because most people lead such busy lives it seems. But I'm a believer of when you bless others (especially with your time), and do so with sincerity, that blessing comes back to you.

For those who are sick or disabled and fortunate enough to have people in your life that truly do care about you and care for you, show appreciation to them instead of taking it for granted, being stubborn, prideful or simply not trying to get along. It's hard to be around people who constantly act that way and I don't believe anyone truly wants to be alone all of the time.

I must admit that it took awhile for me to adjust to all of the changes life had for me. I've been through all of the different emotions you can imagine. Today, thanks to a loving and patient support system of family and friends- especially my husband, I'm not only still here but enjoy my life and am very thankful for it. There was a time when I honestly couldn't say that but as my faith grew so did my understanding and perspective.

Huge life lesson  . . .  as bad as you may think your situation is there are others out there who have it so much worse. So instead of continuing to think about what you don't have or can't do concentrate on what you do have and be thankful. It can change your life!

Patricia F

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