"But you look so healthy?!"
"But you're too young for arthritis!"
These are just a few of the things Rachel Janzen hears many times a day about her struggle with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). She takes a deep breath and smiles, and tries once again to explain that RA is an autoimmune disorder and has nothing to do with age.
For Rachel, RA is a very lonely disease. Her most recent attack landed her in the hospital, begging for pain relief. She told her husband she was leaving for the ER at 1:30 am after writhing in pain for hours. None of her medications were working, and she felt as if she was losing her mind. Upon arriving at the hospital the flare was so bad she wasn't even able to sign her name. As she lay hooked up to IV morphine and anti-inflammatories, her mind started down the all-too-familiar road of fear.
Will the pain stop? What will I do with my future? How can I continue to work? How will I help pay the bills? How can I be the wife I want to be to my husband? The combination of all her required medications were making it difficult for her to conceive, so Rachel’s lifelong dream of being a mom seemed nearly impossible. It was a constant struggle to stay positive, to keep smiling, to believe that every day won't be this bad.
Some days, it's all too easy for her to understand why someone struggling with chronic pain might fall deep into depression or consider suicide. It's a very hard thing to cope with.
Rachel went off of her RA medications in order to have a child. Her RA was not kind to her during the process – she had to turn to medical cannabis to help manage her pain – but it was worth it, as the family was blessed with a beautiful baby girl last spring.
Rachel has leaned heavily on her support system throughout the process – even more than a typical new mom. Throughout her battle with RA and other conditions, her mother has been her warrior in helping Rachel fight for medical help, driving her to appointments and always looking for anything to help.
“My husband is wonderful and so is my family,” she says proudly. “After struggling with the endless side effects from my medications, I now have hope for a future without such pain.”