"But you look so healthy?!"
"But you're too young for arthritis!"
Just a few of the things I hear many times a day about my struggle with rheumatoid arthritis. I think to myself, "If you had any idea of the pain I endure on a daily basis you might not be so quick to make those comments," but instead I smile and again try to explain that RA is an autoimmune disorder and has nothing to do with age.
Then there are those who offer their endless ideas to help "cure" my RA. Sour cherries, go vegan, natural remedies, acupuncture... the list goes on and on. And yes, I've tried it all and am I cured? And does money grow on trees? Because these things get expensive.
RA is a very lonely disease. My most recent attack landed me in the hospital, begging for pain relief. I told my husband I was leaving for the ER at 1:30 am after writhing in pain for hours. No meds were working and I felt as if I was going to lose my mind. Upon arriving at the hospital I wasn't even able to sign my name – the disease was on, full force. As I lay hooked up to IV morphine and anti-inflammatories, my 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? (I'm a dental hygienist) How will I help pay the bills? How can I be the wife I want to be to my husband? I don't want to ask for help, let alone asking for help to dress myself or cut my meat. All my meds are making it difficult for me to conceive, so my lifelong dream of being a mom seems near impossible. A constant struggle to stay positive, to keep smiling, to believe that every day won't be this bad. It's all too easy for me 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.
Thankfully I am blessed with an amazing support system. My mother has been my warrior in helping me fight for medical help, driving me to appointments and always looking for anything to help. My husband is wonderful and so is my family. After struggling with endless side effects from my medications, new government regulations have given me the opportunity to try medicinal cannabis through a licensed producer called Aphria, hoping for a future without such pain.
Hopefully others will also be able to find relief through this promising treatment.
By Rachel Janzen