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Your Life, After Diagnosis

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by Michael DuVall

A diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis can be devastating, sometimes requiring major changes in lifestyle. But there is life after RA…

I would have rather the doctor told me I had cancer.

For me, rheumatoid arthritis meant my paternal grandmother. As I was growing up, I watched as Grandma slipped from cane to walker to wheelchair and finally, to bed. Towards the end, she couldn’t walk, write, or even brush her own teeth. Few people grieved at her funeral; the people who really cared for Grandma were just relieved that her suffering was over.

I believed RA meant enduring a pointless life filled with pain, devoid of joy, and ending with a eulogy titled: “She’s Better Off”. Now, of course, we know about new medications, exercise, adaptive techniques, rehabilitation—treatment that wasn’t available for my grandmother. I am—and I plan to remain—an active, productive person. But when first diagnosed, I was devastated. My expectations for myself and for those around me were completely skewed and as a result, I made a lot of bad decisions regarding my treatment. With all the benefit of five years of hindsight, here’s what I would suggest to anyone who’s just been diagnosed.
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