Can Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis Lead To Gains?

AymaraRheumatoid Arthritis Guy and his family returned home late yesterday afternoon, after a three day visit to the Island of the Sun and Island of the Moon in Lake Titicaca. The trip was strenuous – it’s an almost 9 hour trip from end to end – but it was fun…and in the end, I was able to pull off both the trip and the final hike with no problems. (My ankles guards and crutches helped quite a bit.)

During the trip, my rheumatoid arthritis continued to present itself. It is not as chronic as it has been in the past, but it does continue to come in pretty regular waves every few hours. I was surprised at how well I was able to integrate these ups and downs into a daily routine that was totally out of the normal for me.

When I got home yesterday, I had only about an hour before I had to be at my Aymara language class – the final one of the semester. While everyone else was preparing to rest, I was swapping out the clothes in my backpack for my notebooks and dictionary. Even though I had been able to practice this language during this trip, I had not really “studied” for the final exam. (In the end, things turned out better than expected with the final exam!)

As the professor wrapped up the class, he started to offer some suggestions as to why those of us who took the class decided to take the class – after all, the Aymara language is a language in decline with almost no written tradition. As he was sharing his perceptions, I couldn’t help but experience a major flashback to just a few months ago, when I started taking this class.

Although I have been interested in studying the Aymara language for years, the main reason I ultimately ended up taking this class this semester was to serve as a distraction from the constant pain that I had been experiencing for months. I was very weary of my ability to actually attend a class three times a week – especially on a campus that is not friendly to disabled individuals. And then there was the larger question: would I even be able to concentrate and focus on the intrinsic details of a completely foreign language while dealing with a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis?

While I was walking home after class last night, I had a smile from one ear to the other. Not only was I able to achieve everything that I thought might not be possible, but in a way I was able to turn my chronic pain and illness into something productive. I used it to motivate me to learn a new language that I have wanted to study for years. It wasn’t always easy – just a couple of weeks ago I reached a point in class where my hands could not even take notes – but it was definitely possible.

I felt like I could take on the world, and immediately started to think about how I could replace some of the other losses that I thought were inevitable with a life with rheumatoid arthritis. I now know otherwise. And more importantly, I know that in time things will continue to fall back into place…I need not push too hard.

I’m looking forward to discovering where my rheumatoid arthritis will take me next!

Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!

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