‘It’s not something that can be cured but we will help you manage your condition…..’ started the nurse. As she spoke I nodded quietly, mam was sitting beside me soaking all the information in while I just heard, “can’t be cured”. I felt that maybe it was a little ridiculous to be so shocked, I mean, I wasn’t dying. I had just been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
It wasn’t cancer, I wasn’t going blind, and nothing horrific was happening. I didn’t need to have a 17 hour surgery or anything insane like that… but still, I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. Those words, “never be cured” kept creeping into my head. The nurse was absolutely lovely and talked me through why I felt stiff and sore, why I was tired all the time and the medication I would be put on.
I kept hearing the words, “manage” and, “control”. At fifteen this didn’t mean much to me. I thought the usual ritual would have occurred, doctors, tests, medicine, a few weeks rest. I thought I’d be feeling fine and back out to the disco before I knew it. However this time was different. I had been to the doctors for about a year, gone through various blood tests, x-rays, scans and examinations by several doctors and nurses and only now was I getting an answer. Six months previous to my diagnosis I was at the point of being so frustrated at not knowing why I was in pain, that I really thought I would have been quite happy with just an answer. An answer as to why I found it painful to do things a year ago I completely took for granted.
Yet, once given my diagnosis I was only momentarily relieved. I put on a brave face. I was always good at that at the doctors. “Oh yeah, no problem doctor, I’m not bothered by that needle even if it is the length of my arm!’ I nodded politely and listened to all the nurse had to say. My mam was really great. She reminded me it could have been much worse and that now I had medicine I would feel more like myself very soon. She also gave me a cuddle which made me not feel so foolish for feeling a bit sorry for myself.
I was told I had arthritis in most of my joints, this included my knees, wrists and fingers. I soon began to realise that even with medicine I would have good days and bad. Some days I would wake up and feel relatively fine, I mean, I don’t think I’ll ever climb Mount Everest but maybe, just maybe on a good day a large hill would be my bitch! I’ll never be able to do a handstand again but I don’t really require that skill for any of my life goals so I’m doing ok. Still, there are some days when something as simple as brushing my teeth can prove difficult and painful. It’s the little things you take for granted when you have your health that suddenly become your biggest obstacles. From squeezing the toothpaste out, to turning a stubborn tap on or holding a toothbrush. On a bad day, they can all seem like climbing Mount Everest to me.
At 15, I felt embarrassed to tell my friends that I had arthritis. It was known as, “something old people got”. You’d expect your granny to have it, not your school friend. My cousin even thought it was contagious, but he was just being a complete idiot! I made jokes about my old lady bones, and I still do. It helps to make light of it, it’s not the most horrendous thing in the world! Why not laugh? It makes people more comfortable too, I find. However I must admit, I didn’t feel like laughing much the day I was told. I know I had arthritis a while before they actually told me in that nurses office, but still that day changed my life. I wasn’t just Gloria anymore I was the, “poor creator” with arthritis, “your one with the fat fingers”, and “the girl with the old lady bones”.
The hardest thing at times is people not understanding me, or my condition. If one person reads this and feels like someone else understands even a bit of what they are going through then I have been successful in what I am trying to achieve.