RA Does Not Define Me


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I was a female wildland firefighter. I spent summers in the desert in 100+ degree heat identifying vegetarian post fire. Some days we hiked miles to get to sights passing rattlesnakes and sagebrush.

I was a wife. I had a caring husband and I have two wonderful kids. Smart and independent like their mom. Cleaver and beautiful like their dad.

I noticed a rash on my lower back. In my late 20’s I got shingles. Annoying, yes, but like everything in my life I pushed through it. The rashes eventually went away but I was sore all the time. The kicker came one night while I was tearing to get out of the bathtub. I couldn’t. I was home alone. Venerable. I couldn’t lift myself out of the tub and put stress on my ankles and knees. I also didn’t have the strength in my wrists and ankles to get out. I was home alone.

Read more: My battle with Systemic Idiopathic Rheumatoid Arthritis

After few hours I fought my way out of the tub crying and feeling humiliated. I went to my family doctor the next day. She told me that I pulled a muscle and gave me a sheet of stretches to do, to take ibuprofen and it’ll get better. I insisted on blood tests. I got a call back a few days later. She wanted to run more tests. My white blood cell count was off the charts and I’ve had extremely high inflammation markers.

She asked me do I have a history of RA or Leukemia in my family. RA factor came back positive. I got referred to a specialist two hours away from my small mountain town. I was told I will be able to see him in 3 to 4 months and to take ibuprofen for the pain in the meantime. I got a call on December 23rd about a cancellation, so the specialist can see me. We drove for 2 hours. I’ve had ultrasounds and X-rays, a Rx for steroids and some medicine to manage RA.

I start feeling like myself a few weeks later. A hungrier version of myself, because steroids made me feel like a bottomless pit. We got a diagnosis of RA. It was time to move on with my life.
The medications, depression, my lack of self-control all together caused me to pack in the pounds. I was tired all the time. I just wanted some help. I began to nag and push my husband to pitch in more.

Read more: My Journey With Rheumatoid Arthritis

In a flash a year has gone by. We have had everything under control. I still couldn’t kick the extra weight but I was making a small progress. My husband became distant. He was working more hours, spending more time on his phone. I didn’t have any energy at the end of the day and just wanted to crash. I couldn’t sleep with the light of the screen so I spend a lot of nights on the couch.

He told me he feels neglected and that I needed to try harder to please him. April came. I was planning a weeklong work trip for my daughter’s 5th birthday. I felt great because I lost 10 lbs! Work was awesome. I called my husband’s phone and found out about a beautiful girl 8 years younger than me. I got papers for divorce served soon after. I was no longer a wife.

The next year is a blur. Work was hectic. My kids were “adjusting” whatever that means. My ex was engaged two weeks after the paper work was finalized. I was left with $30,000 in debit that was hidden from me but in my name. My lawyer said it would take more to fight it than to just pay it off. We share custody of our kids. He is a great dad and they adore him. I lost 70 lbs. I feel like myself again. Flairs come up but I am still me. I am a mom, I still work full time. I actually work two jobs. Keeping myself busy means I don’t have time to feel sorry for myself.

The debit is still there like a dark storm cloud but I am punching away at it every chance I get.
RA didn’t take a thing away from me. It added to my story. My goals are the same. The finish line may have been moved a few yards further out. I get fatigued. I cry in the shower. I hurt, but I am still me. I love who I am. I am going to be ok.

What was the biggest challenge after being diagnosed? Show your Support by Sharing this Story!