Thursday, June 30, 2011

Prayers for Bella

   A dog is a man's best friend, right? Well, Bella is my best friend. She is my German Shepherd. I love that dog to death. She is 5 years old now, and we got her as a puppy. Bella and I have some good ol' memories.

   She was staying at the kennel for a little while. She had been having some trouble with her hind leg lately and when the vet did x-rays she found arthritis in her knee (I feel ya, Bella!) and a torn tendon. They decided to perform surgery on her. Anyway, we were eating breakfast when my mom's phone rang. She ran out of the restaurant to get reception and found signal outside of the restaurant. We could see her through the window, and we could tell she was talking to the vet. It worried us as she paced back and forth and looked sorrowful. Instantly, we all became frantic and anxious.
   I had a weird feeling. I wanted her to get off of the phone and come tell us what happened to end the feeling of suspense. At the same time, I was worried something very bad had happened, and I didn't want to lose the normalcy in my life. Bella is always there for me, even when people aren't.
   My mother finally got off of the phone after what seemed like eternity. I had eaten a few bites of my pancake but couldn't eat anymore without feeling sick. My mother came back in and sat down. "What happened to Bella?" I asked instinctively.
   "She's okay," my mother said first, sensing my urgency. "They couldn't do the surgery. She has some sort of bone deformity, so they're going to do a different surgery to fix that leg. It will take six weeks of recovery instead of the two or the days the other surgery would have taken. They can't do the other surgery because she would have a high risk of fracture." We all breathed a sigh of relief. Still, I felt awful. My poor Bella!
   "She's also going to have to go to physical therapy. She'll need to go on this underwater treadmill, and there's a place in (city) that she can go to." We all sort of laughed at the thought of that.
   "Maybe I'll just bring her along with me. Think I can convince Stacie to exercise Bella, too?" We all laughed.
   So now Bella and me and both in physical therapy. I feel so bad for that dog. She has had several surgeries, because she also has this calcium buildup thing in her neck. Please pray for her to have a full recovery.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


   Everyone I know agrees that I never give my mind a break. I am always, always thinking. Lately I have been wondering about my future. I very strongly want to be a missionary doctor. But who knows? I have been known to dramatically change, question, and view things differently on the spot.
   Maybe there is no use in wondering.
   Maybe there is.
   I had a strange dream the other night (as usual). There were two spacecrafts and about ten kids from my science class were in one of them, led by my science teacher and a lady I met when some kids stayed at our house. In the other spacecraft was another science teacher in my school and abut twelve of his kids. Anyway, it was about 5:00 or 6:00 a.m., and the spacecraft was scheduled to launch at 8:00 a.m. The decision I had to make was whether to go or not. Like all space missions, it was risky and dangerous. This one, however, was particularly risky and dangerous. Yet it was a great opportunity. I couldn't decide. Everyone was telling me different things.
   I woke up frightened and frantic. I sat up, ready to sort out my feelings, and thought, Why didn't I go? It would be amazing... Then it hit me: fear. I wasn't going because of fear.
   I am not afraid of death. I am Christian, and I have accepted my ticket to heaven as Corrie ten Boom puts it. Instead, I am afraid of pain and suffering.
   I think one of the most awful things one can do is to let fear control your life. Yeah, it's okay to be scared, but when you let that feeling control your life, you've got a problem on your hands. Now I'm not saying you should go jumping off buildings or not be cautious, but most things we're scared of are actually pretty safe. Things like traveling on a risky space mission, however, are not. But would it not be magnificent to die gazing at the stars that are so close and earth that is so far? If we don't take risks in life, what are we living for?
   Looking back on it, I wouldn't go, not at this time in my life. I'd go only if I felt like I'd accomplished everything on Earth. I feel called to help others. I would go, just not yet.
   The only way to grow is to take risks. This motto has gotten me through a recent situation and continues to inspire me.
   Anyway, I was so intrigued by this dream that I asked all of my family and even emailed my science teacher. I've gotten "Yes, I would definitely go," and "No way!" So what would you do? Comment with your answer, please!


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Just Since July

   I am doing summer camp now.
   Soon after I got to camp, I made friends. One girl quickly became close with me, and we enjoyed talking to each other even though we were just going over the basics. It is nice to make new friends even though I adore my "old" ones. I haven't had that feeling in a while.
   I very much enjoyed being around her, though she was part of one of the camps that would be leaving for three days to canoe and camp out. I was somewhat disappointed because I wouldn't see her until Friday, but I am excited for her. She is not new to the camp and was able to give me a lot of information.
   We pretty much hung out with each other all day. Then free-time came. "What are you going to do, Rachel?"
   "Um, I'll probably just read," I replied contently. I just finished a very good book (A Bend in the Road, by Nicholas Sparks).
   "Oh. Well do you want to play soccer with us?" She asked. I hadn't told anyone except the camp staff about my arthritis.
   "No thanks," I replied. Later, she came back and sat at the picnic table beside me.
   "Hey, do you want to go play tether ball?" She asked eagerly. I shook my head, using the same response I had for soccer. "Oh." She had a confused, disappointed, and slightly offended look on her face. I could tell she didn't know what to think. She probably thought I was completely avoiding her. She has no idea about the blood draw marks on my arm I struggle to hide (that's why I wore that Aeropostale jacket all year, for those of you who didn't know), the pain in my hips, my frequent visits to the children's hospital, or how much I'd love to play soccer and tether ball. I decided, though, that it was time to tell her.
   "I'm sorry I can't play with you." (Yeah, I know, I sound like I'm five) "I have this disease called juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Sort of like arthritis in old people, except my joints have aged early. So basically, it hurts to move. Oh my gosh, that sounds awful." I laughed and she did too. A look of understanding crossed her face, even though she obviously wasn't very educated on the disease. Then again, she didn't need to be.
   "I'm sorry. For you, I mean. That must suck." She said it in a matter-of-fact way that made me smile.
   "Well, I guess you could say that. But it's okay. I'm used to it." After that, we carried on as normal.
   These are the kind of moments where I look around, from the poppy green of the summer trees to the kids burying their feet in the sand of the volleyball court, and smile. I realize just how marvelous the world is.
   I was attempting to do a high ropes challenge course earlier this week (yeah, a little ambitious for me, but I have to push myself). I got all clipped up to wires and ropes and climbed up staples in a tree. Finally, I was at the top, but my hip felt so very crushed. I realized that I wasn't going to make it. "I need to come down!" I shouted to my camp counselor.
   "Why?" he shouted back in reply.
   "My hip hurts!" I replied. This particular counselor did not know about my arthritis.
   "Can you climb back down, or would that make it hurt more?" he asked kindly. I replied that it would hurt more and so he had me let go of the tree and swing so very high up as he lowered me down forty feet or so. I was in tears, and horribly embarrassed. "Is your hip okay? What happened?" he asked, concerned.
   "I'm okay. I have arthritis in my hip." I wiped away tears. He unhooked me.
   "How long have you had arthritis?" he asked tenderly, "All your life?"
   "No," I responded through tears, "Just since July,"
   After that I walked over to the bench and took a break, frustrated with myself. I was able to zipline later that day however. I am having lots of fun at camp despite my troubles. I even got a, "Don't only old people get arthritis?" when it came up with another girl that I am affected by arthritic troubles.
   I wish I could have done the high ropes course. I wish people would understand. Maybe I just need to lower my expectations.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

You Hit Rachel

   It's summer! Am I excited? No. Am I completely bummed because I love all of my friends so much and I won't get to see them as much now that school is over? Yes.
   My arthritis is getting really annoying. Like seriously though. Could it ever just decide, Oh, look, Rachel's having fun at a pool party, could we just have a little mercy on her knees today? Well, the answer is apparently No. I have to say, I'm a little disappointed. 
   I am eager to watch my first summer with bad arthritic pain unfold. Maybe eager is the wrong word. I am not the excited type of eager but more the curious type of eager. In about a month I will have had JRA for a year. That seems like such a long time! It doesn't feel that long. Then again, nothing ever feels that long. I am so sad that school is over. I would do anything to do this year over, even with all my arthritic struggles.
   I'm seriously wondering whether I should throw a birthday party for my arthritis. It's like a really annoying, sometimes mean friend to me. It has taught me so much though. It's taught me how to live, how to think, how to act, and how to accept things without adjusting to them. I'm sort of thankful for it, though I would tell you otherwise if I were in one of my worst days right now. So I probably won't. 
   I have been pondering lately if I am more of a burden to my friends than I am worth. I think this is probably true, but I don't think anyone will admit it. All of my friends are way too kind.
   There used to be this phenomenon going on at school where whenever something would hit me or anything everyone would go, "You hit Rachel!" This used to happen all the time. Basketballs, soccer balls, erasers, markers, food, whatever. People must think I'm fragile. Which is sort of true. When I'm in bad arthritic pain, people try to hug me, which in turn hurts my back even more.
   I always respond with, "I'm fine, really." because I always am fine and nobody ever believes that I'm fine. It honestly never hurts, and if it does only for a second.
   "I'm sooooooo sorry!"
   "It's okay, it didn't hurt, really."
   "Are you sure?"
   "I'm sure,"
   "Oh, I'm so sorry!"
   "It's fine, really. It didn't hurt. I don't care."
   I do have to say that it's sweet how much everyone looks after me. Even the most misbehaved kids worry about me when I get hit with things. It's funny and sweet and I swear you can almost see the threads that knit me and all of my peers together.
   There I go, talking about school again. It's probably pretty obvious that I miss it. I would give anything to do this year over again. If I knew then what I know now about my arthritis, I would've been more demanding.
   I am getting way overly stubborn. I was at the pool with one of my friends. Being the caring person that she is, she kindly ordered me not to jump into the pool as she knew it would hurt my joints. "Rachel, do not jump in. It's going to hurt. I don't want you to get hurt." She said. I thought it would probably hurt, too. Still, I was not satisfied with the feeling of being controlled so as soon as she wasn't looking I jumped into the pool. Let me tell you, it hurt.


Friday, June 10, 2011

Coming to a Close

   Arthritis commercials make me mad. They act like it's only that people with arthritis have trouble climbing stairs and it hurts a little bit. From connecting with other people with arthritis and personal experience, I know that the pain is much worse. It's excruciating. The kind of pain where you think, What if it never goes away? Would life be worth living? Yeah, it can be that bad. Of course, there are many degrees of arthritis severity and pain. I try not to look as they show what seems like a mild, nagging pain on the television. I have a feeling that the commercial creators do not suffer from arthritis.
   Anyway, my arthritis has been okay, I guess. My hips have been really bothering me. They sometimes hurt more than my knees, which is saying a lot, considering my knees pretty much murder me. I mean, actually I murder my knees, at least my immune system does. Thanks a lot, immune system!
   I am on a muscle relaxer, because I have muscle tension and a pain syndrome on top of my arthritis. It's weird to think that in a month I will have had arthritis for a year. I had to see an opthamologist today, because kids with arthritis can get eye inflammation called uveitis. (See More About JRA for more information.) My eyeballs are good!
   I learned what people have been keeping from me today. Here's what happened:
   All of a sudden, some of my friends come bursting out of the closet, tossing balloons. This closet that is usually only used when Dana, London and I are hiding presents for teachers, is holding about fifteen people. It was insane. I was very confused at first (I swear they're lucky I'm not dead from a heart attack), but then they all came towards me hugging me and wishing me a happy birthday. I laughed and hugged all of them multiple times. It was a surprise party for me! How incredibly sweet! I received a mountain of cards and gifts. Thank you all so much! It was lovely and beautiful and all those types of things!
  So as for my arthritis, I'm okay, though I am in the midst of a tsunami of pain.
  School ended today. Let me tell you, I cried. I hugged everyone, even people I barely know. Give me some time, and I'll tell you why it was so upsetting for me.