Location: Concord, CA
How has your condition impacted you? The greatest impact was the loss of a 20+ year career as a Union Ironworker. I loved being part of building the skyline of the San Francisco Bay Area. Going from a strong independent young man and sole provider for my family to my wife having to dress me in a matter of weeks of my first RA flare was difficulat and confusing. Unfortunately, depression and multiple back surgeries have made the road very difficult and sometimes the feeling of any sense of normalcy will be difficult for me to ever achieve again. My wife and two children have been my greatest support system and psychologists over these years. Before my diagnosis, I was building our home. Then, when I got ill, my closest friends stepped up and finished our dream for us. They have also been there for us over the years with love and support.
After ten years with RA, there are days I still do not know how I feel or what I should be feeling. It can be confusing at times. If there is one positive thing that has come from being diagnosed and not able to work, it would be that I have had the opportunity to stay home with our children and spend time with them. It has also allowed my wife to work outside the home and return to school, which is something she has wanted to accomplish for a long time.
What would you like for other people to know about your condition? I look normal and I can smile through the discomfort. I have been judged by other family members when I put up my handicap plaque to park my truck. To others, I don't know. We all have our problems in life. RA is a crippling disease to the body and the mind. If someone questions the condition, please educate yourself. Words of ignorance can hurt so badly!
What would you like to tell someone who has been recently diagnosed with your condition? Educate yourself on the disease. Keep copies of all medical files, x-rays, etc. A log of appointments and medications is important. Keep a notebook handy to write down questions to ask your doctor. Hopefully, you will be able to find a good Rheumatologist, as I did, that goes beyond your care and gives you support. Get involved with the Arthritis Foundation. I annually go on their Arthritis Walk and am able to feel for a short time that I am not alone. Smile as much as possible. Stay active by swimming or walking. Have crayons and a coloring book for those bad days when you just can't seem to get moving. Have a friend you can lean on for comfort and guidance. A person who will just sit and listen makes all the difference in the world.
Brian's bit of inspiration: Be happy! You have lots of reasons.
Thank you so much Brian!!