The Other Side of the Coin

Earlier this week, I read something by a woman who has rheumatoid arthritis talking about hope, talking about the impact the disease has had on her life and at the end of the piece, she wrote that when she was old, she’d be able to look back and "know what a truly amazing life I have lived despite rheumatoid arthritis."

And my immediate reaction to that was remembering the realization I had long ago: I have had an amazing life and in many ways that’s because of my RA, not despite it.

To begin with, it's as simple as if I didn't have RA, I wouldn't have moved to Canada. I was 19 when my parents decided that two years of living in different countries had been enough (my father was troubleshooting at the Canadian branch of a Danish company) and that my mother and sister (then nine years old) would join my dad in Toronto for a couple of years. Most of my friends had already lived on their own for a year after graduating high school or had been traveling for that year, returning to find a job or continue their education. Due to my disability, I still lived at home (and would for many, many more years) and the idea of moving out on my own with my closest family being on another continent was very unappealing. So I came with, crying my eyes out with homesickness even before we left the country and we stayed more than a couple of years. In fact, so far it's been almost 27 years.

If I didn't have RA, I wouldn't have the education I have, I wouldn't live where I do now, I wouldn’t have had the jobs I've had, wouldn't have seen the parts of the world I have and would never have met all the people I've come to care about here in Canada, many of whom have become family. Some by marriage - John and I became friends when we both belonged to an online group called Single by Choice and two years later, he changed his mind about the single thing when he met my sister, which occasionally makes me feel all matchmaker-y. Other friends became chosen family, as important to me as the “regular” kind and through them I'm privileged to know some truly amazing kids. If I didn't have RA, I would also never have met the people who are no longer in my life, but who helped me grow and change and become who I am.

If I didn't have RA, I wouldn't be where I am today or who I am today. And I really like who I've become, where I am in life and the people who share that life, who bring love and laughter and sometimes tears. I am lucky to know them. And if I am lucky to be who and where I am and lucky to know the people I do and those are the direct result of me having RA, then I cannot regret anything about my life. Not the choices I made, nor the disease that has shaped those choices. It's not always easy in the middle of a transition and sometimes, the pain that often comes with transition - whether physical or emotional – can take your breath away and your sense of humour, too, but looking back, each flare, each hardship played their part in shaping me, affected the path I took and all led me here, to this moment.

I have an amazing life because of RA.