Someone gave me Rheumatoid Arthritis. I know the culprit. It is my friend who has an office a few doors down from mine at work, and she was diagnosed last year. In the past year, I have seen her suffer. However, I never really understood her condition. Until she gave it to me.
Of course, I am kidding. But, my little joke provides some levity to the situation.
I will call my friend, RA Sister. Her journey has been anything but easy; she has had fatigue, multiple medicine issues and “bad days”. And I witnessed it, having a front row seat to her pain.
The fatigue seemed to hit her quickly. Our normally sunny girl turned pale and worn out. She kept up her positive attitude, but you could tell she just didn’t feel well. I checked on her and could tell when she was having a better day and a bad day. The bad days were multiplying. Still, her smile was apparent every time I saw her. She also continued to sport joyful shirts, such as one featuring her favorite succulent plants.
RA Sister is not one to complain. AT ALL. You would never know her hard days. She soldiers on with a smile and despite her pain, she continues with her rather demanding duties at work, shares innovative teaching ideas and her beautiful poetry. Tough as nails doesn’t even begin to describe her. Her fight is an inspiration.
She started using the hashtag, #soulfight, last summer. I thought it was such a great title for her condition. Soul fight. Fighting for her very soul. My other friend from work and I cheered her on. We sent her encouraging memes and always tagged our missives with her hashtag. We were there for her. But, were we really?
There are times when I apologize to my RA Sister. I tell her I had no idea what she was going through. Now, I completely understand and feel a little guilty for not being there for her more. She laughs at my guilt, waves her hand and says, “how could you know? How could anyone know?” Even in our conversation the other day, she said she’s mad at her body. I get it, Sister. Truly and deeply.
When I was diagnosed last March, I was in shock and she was my first phone call. I started the conversation with “you gave this to me!!!” She laughed and launched in with a lot of encouragement, support and information. She stayed on the phone with me for over an hour, empathizing and caring for me. Little did I know, she was sitting in hospice at the deathbed of her father. Throughout our conversation, she did not share any of her personal trauma. She focused on me and took time out of her misery to help ME. Yes. She’s that type of friend. And, she gives the most considerate gifts.
For Christmas one year, she gave me a print that she painted for me. It means the world to me and currently hangs in my writing room. The quote on the painting is from Elizabeth Gilbert and it says, “Be a weirdo who dares to enjoy.” This painting reminds me of her artistic and vastly creative spirit. For her birthday this year, I returned the favor of giving her a photograph I took of lanterns I saw at Christmastime. They were so beautiful, just like my RA Sister.
This summer, RA Sister is embarking on a cross-country journey, with her three beloved dogs in tow. I am excited for her and the many adventures she will have. Brave? Yes. She will no doubt infect everyone she meets across the nation….with her buoyant and kind spirit, not RA.