Thursday, July 26, 2012

Surviving Arthritis - Newly Diagnosed Part 1

    I thought that for my next post, I'd do a little reflection of how to survive arthritis in creative ways, specifically juvenile arthritis. This post is mainly for the newly diagnosed, but also for those of you who have not let your creativity shine yet (dramatic stare into the sky). Keep in mind that this is not a medical approach (which I will do next), but actually a more humorous approach.
    Stage One: Let's start with arthritis tools, shall we? A lot of us have to use braces, special grips, splints, you name it. Do not be afraid to bedazzle. Haha, I've actually never bedazzled anything (it's not my personality), but hey, if you're going to have to live with these things at least make them look cute. When I had to wear wrist splints on both arms every night and look like a blue velcro monster, I pulled socks with Tweety Bird and other cute designs over the splint. This was useful, because otherwise the exposed velcro would cause my arms to get stuck together and that was a pretty miserable situation to be in at 2 a.m. Mainly though, they were as adorable as possible. Or, you can just embrace the blue monster. That's a good option, too. 
    Stage Two: Okay. Now you've completed stage one. Next, you must learn how to joke about your arthritis. Because, as not-funny as it is, you need to learn to laugh it off. The quicker the better. If you don't feel that you're ready for this type of thing (it can take time), then go ahead and jump to Stage Three. For the rest of you, who have stayed, acknowledge that by joking about your arthritis you are sort of giving others a pass to do the same. Good friends will laugh with you and make casual jokes; bad friends will joke about it when you're collapsed on the floor crying. Are you willing to take this risk? I was. There were times when I regretted it, but for the most part it's been beneficial. Now go think of some, new patient!
    Stage Three: Experiment with painting or crafting as a way of expression. Personally, I really like abstract art and three dimensional/textured art. Try that, it can really help. Paint your story. 
    Stage Four: Learn how to lighten any mood. If you're struggling with writing, and your peers ask you why you can't, engage this conversation:
    Peer: Why can't you write fast?
    You: When I was little, a walrus came and a piece of his tusk got lodged in his wrist but he made it back to the arctic before we could capture him to give him the piece of his tusk back so he wouldn't look weird.
    Peer: Why can't you walk?
    You: A couple months ago, I met this guy who was trying to recreate "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs". We were up in the aircraft, trying to get the machine to dispense spaghetti all over (city name), and then the spaghetti started to go out of control and kind of crushed my legs.
    Peer: Why are you using a heating pad?
    You: Back in March, I was outside in the cold waiting for the bus when the cold-ninjas came and attacked my joints and invade them so now they're always cold.
    I can guarantee that you'll get a pretty strange look from your peers. This is the goal. But you can't leave it at that or they will seriously think you're crazy. So then explain that you really have JA and they'll realize how awesome you are, which will block out the sick-kid stereotype.
    Stage Five: Get involved with Arthritis Advocacy. It can be something like giving a presentation in school, keeping a blog, or even going to Congress. The Arthritis Foundation ( is a great resource for getting involved in that type of stuff.
The medical post for the newly diagnosed is coming next!



  1. Step Six: Adopt an "Only the cool kids get arthritis" attitude. :)

  2. Hi Rachel!!
    First of all, I am truly sorry that I haven't kept up with you and everyone else from Chapel Hill very well, especially now that I see what you are going through. You have no clue how disgusted I am with myself for not supporting you during times when you probably felt really alone. I promise that will change. If you ever need to vent, just let me know and I will listen. Hey, if you just want to talk about normal things, I'm there for that too! Chapel Hill is a foreign place to me now, and I'm dying to know what is going on! Beach life isn't all that great, but I'll fill you in.
    Hopefully you know how much I admire you for being so brave and mature. Your attitude puts me to shame! Blogs are a great way to reach out to people and inspire them, and judging by the comments I read on a few of your posts, you already have. That is incredible!
    Rachel, one last thing before I have to stop writing (because if I don't I will go on and on and this thing will get ridiculously long): the way I have and always will remember you is as the very bright (but not concieted) girl who was my friend in 2nd grade, Ms.Joshua's class. Someone with enough heart to cry when a dog was killed in our reading group story, but also enough willpower to become a vegetarian at a very young age when her own dog died. That is a rare person. Arthritis and weakness dosen't even come into the picture. If my image of you were to ever change, I would consider you as someone who overcame obstacles and reached out to others. Rachel, you never know, maybe arthritis is a blessing in disguise. It causes alot of pain and suffering, but through that pain comes to oppurtunity to go completely introspective and channel your emotions into things like art and poetry, which helps you find yourelf (something kids like me are desprately trying to do). Also, it gives you a bigger picture, a way to consider something more than yourself, and the need to educate and inspire others. I have to believe that these are the reasons that you have arthritis, because things like this shouldn't happen to young, good people like you.
    You keep pushing through. I wish you so much luck and I know that you will be going places in life. I will be praying and thinking of you. God bless you!

  3. Cadyn,
    I misssssss you! Thank you so much! If you email me I can give you my phone number so we can text. You are easily more brave and mature than me, so don't even go there, haha. I've been thinking of you, too! Hope we can talk soon!



Feel free to comment or shoot me an email - I'll try to get back to you either way!