Over the winter last year, I noticed that my hands hurt, my knees ached a little more than usual, and various joints bothered me that had never bothered me before. Then a telltale bump appeared on my left index finger, and I knew what it was. But I didn’t do anything about it until near the end of April. The call from the doctor’s office confirmed what I already knew: I have rheumatoid arthritis.
It’s very hard not to feel sorry for yourself when you hear news like this. I have been through so much the last few years, and I thought I had finally gotten over the hump, and it was going to be smooth sailing. I have projects waiting to be refinished in my garage, sandpaper waiting to smooth out rough surfaces. Instead, they sit there gathering dust.
Some days, I can’t even chop fruit and vegetables. Other days, I can’t pick up things around my house. I end up calling one of my boys or a friend for help. That doesn’t always work when you feel like it’s something that you should be able to do right at that moment, for yourself, without waiting for someone to come help you. And depending on their schedules, sometimes that wait could go for two or three days.
I hate it. It pisses me off. I’ve lost some of my independence and I can’t get it back. That doesn’t mean that I’m going down without a fight. I’ve mowed my yard, even though people tell me not to. Yes, I pay a price for doing it, which is usually a day or two of nearly unbearable pain, but the satisfaction that I did it without help soothes the pain a little bit.
This past weekend, my hands hurt so much I could barely cook. I did simple things that didn’t require me to cut up food or lift skillets or pots. When I did have to pick things up, I did it with two hands. There was a lot of frustration floating around my house. There’s still some growling going on.
My mother has R.A. The joke between us used to be that she was the legs of the outfit and I was the hands. Now, I feel like a lump on a log, stuck in the middle of a river without a paddle, wondering what the heck I’m supposed to do now. I miss the person that I used to be before last winter…before that phone call in April. Sometimes, it feels like I’m a little kid again, trying to figure out how to do things with limited abilities.
Does this mean I’m giving up? No. There are going to be a lot of days of frustration in the years ahead. I know that. I know that there are things I can do to help make things easier for myself. And I also realize that I’m not going to be able to do everything that I want to do. Swallowing my pride and reaching out to those that are willing to help isn’t an easy thing to do, but I’m working on it. I’ll learn to adapt.
But I still miss the person who I used to be…