Hope. It's a very big part of Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis. It's something I mentioned specifically in many of the chapters in the first book, Tools for Managing Treatment, Side Effects and Pain. More than that, though, finding a way to connect to hope is the driving force behind the series.
The dictionary defines hope as "the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best." Over my decades of living with RA, through good times and bad times — and really bad times — a belief has quietly and steadily grown within me. It is the belief that hope is central to living with this disease.
When you spend every day with this cantankerous companion called RA, it can be difficult not to get pulled down into the darkness. Sometimes, it's pain that drags you down, other times it is being overwhelmed by medication and medical issues. During the good times, the spectre of a flare can hang over your head like the other shoe, waiting to drop. At first, it can feel as if there are no choices, as if you have been tossed into a roiling ocean and have forgotten everything you ever knew about swimming. So what do you do? Do you drown or do you swim?
And then you talk to someone who's lived with it a little longer. Or you have a good doctor who promises you that they'll fight for you. Or you have a good day where all the crap recedes just enough so you can breathe or think. That's when you start seeing the possibility of a choice. The choice to hope. The choice to have faith that the meds will work or even if they don't, you'll find a way to manage.
It is a start of a belief in yourself. A belief that you are strong enough to get through this. A belief that with your own resilience and the support of your loved ones and your friends with RA, you will be able to take one step after the other and get through this. It is a belief that medical research will find a drug that works for you. A belief that other aspects of your life will help you cope with the crap. And the belief that you are more than RA.
All of this is hope. It is what gets you started down the path of understanding your disease, your options for treatment and what can help you manage the symptoms of RA. Hope is what keeps you going, not giving up until you have found something that works. Hope is the foundation for your quest to live a good life with RA. And believing that it is possible to live well with RA is the start of it all.
The wonderful painting I used at the top of this post was gifted to me after a very rough time by my friend, the wonderful artist Michelle Ottey. It hangs on my yellow kitchen wall, making me smile every day.
Crossposted on Your Life with RA