Just over three years ago, I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis (PsA) and everything changed.
I was overwhelmed by the injustice of it. It took me months to accept my new fate and until I did, anger was my go-to emotion. I could only see the things I had lost, what I couldn’t do anymore.
I was a mother, a wife, an ob-gyn and an active woman, and no part of my life would remain unscathed.
I had to stop any form of work that required manual dexterity as my hands and right shoulder were greatly affected. Gone were the days of helping women give birth or of performing surgery to help resolve their health problems. It was devastating. Helping bring babies into this world was a God-given gift in my eyes.
I had to give it all up… and quick
Not long after my diagnosis, I had to abandon my practice entirely, including consultations. I couldn’t believe that I had to relinquish my calling in the face of arthritis, a calling for which I had dedicated my entire life.
Thankfully, I was able to revisit another passion of mine: teaching. I was asked to share my expertise at Laval University, where I currently teach and create instructional material for tomorrow’s doctors. When living with arthritis, you must learn to adapt and I’m thankful that I was able to do so.
Adapting as a family
As a mother, some challenges hurt and shook me more than others. Watching my daughter struggling to deal with the loss of her mother as she had always known her and to accept her “new mom” was hard. I am lucky that she was so wise and mature for her age (she was 8 years old at the time). Despite the situation being sad and challenging, she was mindful, open and understanding. We often spoke whole-heartedly, and this created such a strong and unique bond between the two of us. We learned to appreciate every little ounce of energy that this disease affords me.
My son, who is now 5 years old, was also affected by the challenges of having a mother living with arthritis. We began to notice some emotional problems due in part to the limited physical contact I could give him. It’s a sensitive issue for me, but I know I can’t blame myself. My partner and I guide him along with the help of a professional and provide him with all the necessary tools, and we’ve already begun to see some positive changes.
Luckily, my family has grown stronger because of this challenge and I have my husband to thank for this. He never complains about having to take on most of the household tasks and offers me help when I need it. I am so grateful for his support and we have found ways to make things easier for him. A social worker and local co-op now help us with household chores and tasks, which has proven incredibly helpful.
My disease has also taken a toll on our intimacy. At first, we were unsure of my physical limitations and we had a hard time handling the lack of spontaneity. At 34 years old, it was very frustrating! However, we learned how to communicate better, and we’ve found other ways to express our love. We now have so much more understanding, attentiveness and respect for one another.
Talking about arthritis
When faced with this disease, one often feels alone. Despite my incredible support system, no one close to me can really understand what it’s like to live with arthritis on a daily basis. It’s taxing both physically and emotionally. The constant reminders of what I can no longer do force me to adapt over and over again. Talking to someone that wasn’t a part of my immediate circle helped me quite a bit. I eventually found the perfect person to talk to at a chronic pain clinic and opening up about my daily struggles brought me enormous relief. You cannot put a price on that.
Connecting with people going through the same struggles and emotions without having to explain every little detail has been freeing. The Hand in Hand program and the Arthritis Forum organized by the Arthritis Society have allowed me to have these experiences and helped me greatly throughout my journey.
I’ve finally stopped feeling angry and started feeling resilient! I now understand and accept my condition. I tackle each day by saying: “Let’s see what you’ve got in store for me.” I am much more at peace and even if there is always room for improvement, I feel like I have the tools I need to take on any challenge!
Laurie Bérubé, Quebec City