Many people think arthritis is just something you get if you didn’t drink enough milk as a kid or it just comes with aging. While for some this may be the truth, others were diagnosed as children or young adults. Although arthritis is often seen as something that makes a person weak or disables you from doing certain activities, I think it’s more of a strength than a weakness.
The day I was diagnosed I immediately thought the worst things. I’m only 20 years old, what if my husband can’t put my wedding ring on my finger because they bend? Will I be able to pick up my kids or play kickball with my students? I kept thinking and thinking of all the things that would be taken from me but the fact is, nothing was taken from me. While I was sitting there thinking my world was falling apart, my mom said one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever heard in my life. My beautiful mother who had just been told the same things my doctor told me, my mother who had just been told her little girl’s joints were slowly breaking down showed complete strength when I couldn’t. My mom looked me in my eyes and said, “Lindsay … no matter what anyone tells you, never say no. If someone tries to do something for you just because you have arthritis and you know you can do it, say no. If you can do it, you need to … don’t let this control you.”
From that moment on that’s exactly what I’ve done. I chose to take back my control and even decided not to take the medicine I had been prescribed. For as long as I can I plan to treat my arthritis naturally by changing my diet, doing yoga, running and just using simple Aleve. The commercials do not do us justice. While we may wake up in pain each day, we may walk around with inflamed joints, and we may have to take a couple more breaks at the mall, we can still do everything others can. After my diagnosis, I did the unthinkable, something even normal people struggle to do, I went to Big Bend and climbed a mountain.
Where most people see a disability, I see an exciting new challenge. The moment we got to that mountain I thought, there’s no way I can do this but then I remembered my mom’s words of encouragement. I not only completed the hike, I was the first to do so. I believe arthritis patients are stronger than most people. Every morning when we wake up and our body says “I can’t” we get up and say “I can because I’m strong.” We can still run marathons, build houses, play with little kids, and hold hands.
There are some things arthritis brings into your life that many don’t know about. Most of the drugs we are prescribed can be worse than the disease, even fatal. For many arthritis prescriptions, the side effects can be anywhere from blood clots to cancer. If you’re diagnosed before the age of 18, you have to get monthly injections. You can’t donate to bone marrow patients or even blood drives. But I’ve found some ways to overcome these things. I decided to try the natural approach at least until I can start my family, this has included eating things like cherries, berries, lemons, and cutting out things like eggplant and tomatoes. Running and walking is actually good for arthritis, as is yoga. My doctor told me the rule is, “if you hurt during the workout that’s okay, but if you feel pain two hours after working out, find something new.” While you can’t donate blood or bone marrow, you can donate plasma.
I’ve always been very headstrong and I now know that’s a gift to help conquer my arthritis. Sometimes the people you think are the strongest are struggling with arthritis. I’m no longer ashamed to tell people that I have arthritis, I’m now excited to live my life exactly the same as I did before but with an even better lifestyle. I love challenges, and this is just another one I will overcome. So the next time your friend with arthritis tries to take a hike or wants to run a marathon, let them because I promise you they can do it.