Like many of you living with chronic illnesses, I wasn’t always this sick. I was once a young, healthy, vibrant woman running miles on the treadmill or on a trail, training for a marathon, working out 7 days a week and enjoying life with my family. But, that marathon never came to fruition. You see in 2012, at age 30 I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. At the time I had three young children and was arguably in the best shape of my life. It was the day after a hard training session and I literally could not walk or even get out of bed without assistance. It came out of nowhere, this brick wall that I slammed into face first.(Truthfully it was a full body slam.) As if tiny construction workers came in the night and built around me, boxing me into this diagnosis and each subsequent diagnoses since. My husband carried me into the doctor who clearly had no ideas and sent me to our local (and only) Rheumatologist/Immunologist. When the doctor said to me, “I’m sorry, but you have RA and unless you want to be in a wheelchair when you’re 50 you must stop abusing your joints and put your running to bed.” I was devastated; to say I felt defeated is an understatement. I felt lost and couldn’t find a way to redirection, my reinvention, healing, hope… anything. After loads of different meds and more meds and over a year of fighting that beast, we finally reached a place where they felt my RA was under ‘good control’.
I woke each morning to slow, stiff joints and an achy body and thought to myself, “This is RA under ‘good control’? How can this be?” I earned a new nickname from my husband; I was the tin man. Each morning he saw me struggling and to lighten the mood and try to pull me out of the fog haunting me he would joke that I just needed to find my can of oil so I could keep moving and pressing on. He was right. Not just in the literal, I couldn’t move and needed some joint juice way, but also in this deeply metaphorical way that I’m not sure I would have found on my own. I had to find a way past the aches and pains and come back to life. Back to him, back to my children, back to myself.