Patient Blogs | Rheumatoid Arthritis
Coming to Terms With My Rheumatoid Arthritis
photo of woman viewing landscape through circular

I was talking with a fellow rheumatoid arthritis (RA) warrior recently, and she was recalling how she was diagnosed with RA while going through treatment for breast cancer. She had a rough go with her cancer journey -- aggressive cancer, multiple surgeries, intensive treatments, and a long recovery.

I listened to her describe the ups and downs and said, “RA must have been a piece of cake compared to all of that.” She quickly responded that she would gladly take on another round of cancer if she could be done with RA forever. She added that the weight of a chronic condition was so much more for her to bear than the definite period of treatment for her cancer. What the what? I was floored! 

As we continued the conversation, I started to realize that I shared many of the truths that were spilling out of her story. A chronic condition is scary, stressful, and overwhelming because it isn’t going anywhere. You dealt with it yesterday, you’re living it today, and you’ll face it again tomorrow. It’s never-ending, which is exhausting both mentally and physically!

In many ways, a chronic diagnosis involves the loss of part of your identity. At the same time, you’re rebuilding another part. As with any loss, it starts with a grieving process and gradually -- sometimes so slowly you can't even tell it's happening -- moves to acceptance. For me, it looked something like this:

  • Shock and denial. The diagnosis can’t be rheumatoid arthritis! I don’t know anyone with it. Surely only old people get it. What do you mean I’ll have it the rest of my life? There must be another test to prove it isn’t RA. I just overdid it, and I’m a little sore.
  • Pain and guilt. Now that the pain and swelling has stuck around for a few months, I’m starting to think this might be serious and impactful. Why didn’t I go to the doctor sooner? Why didn’t I have healthier habits in my 20s? I must have done something to cause my body to react this way.
  • Anger and bargaining. It’s completely wrong and absurd that I have RA! I don’t deserve this and shouldn’t be going through this. I should be enjoying life and playing games with my son. If I give up gluten and alcohol, will you please just make it go away?
  • Depression. I’m so sad and overwhelmed thinking that I’ll be in pain for the rest of my life and that I might eventually be disfigured. I’m not strong enough to deal with this and all the ups and downs. I DON’T want to deal with all the ups and downs!
  • The upward turn. The right medicine is finally starting to work, and I’m starting to feel like myself again. I have a new normal and can’t do everything that I used to, but I can do more than I did last month or the month before.
  • Reconstruction and working through. So I can’t work a full day and head out afterward, but I can catch a catnap and enjoy dinner with my family. I can’t play tennis, but I can walk with friends or take a water aerobics class. I can’t have a full day of Christmas shopping, but I can order half my gifts online and enjoy an afternoon of wrapping.
  • Acceptance and hope. I have RA, and I will have it the rest of my life. I’m grateful for my medicine and that new treatments are in the pipeline. I embrace lifestyle changes that ease the burden of and crankiness that comes with my disease. I look forward to the easier days and know that the hard days will pass.

No matter where you are in your RA journey and processing your grief, I hope you’ll find the tools you need for acceptance and hope to be a part of your life.



Photo Credit: Andrii Lutsyk/ Ascent Xmedia via Getty Images

Tell us what you think of this post?
0 Like
0 Sad
0 Cheered up
0 Empowered
0 Care
WebMD Patient Blog © 2021 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Important: The opinions expressed in WebMD Blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. Blogs are not reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance, objectivity, or any other reason except for compliance with our Terms and Conditions. Some of these opinions may contain information about treatments or uses of drug products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment.

Do not consider WebMD Blogs as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your care plan or treatment. WebMD understands that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified health care provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately.

Ryn Millican

Ryn Millican

Diagnosed since 2016

Ryn Millican’s been learning to balance her professional and personal lives with rheumatoid arthritis for the past five years. With a combination of medication and lifestyle changes, she is able to maintain an active life with minimal disruptions. Ryn lives in Raleigh, NC, with her husband, son, and dog, Weezie. Her passions include traveling, cheering on her Paladins and Tarheels, and all things politics. 

Latest Blog Posts From Ryn Millican

Hacks and Gadgets That Help Me Manage My RA

Hacks and Gadgets That Help Me Manage My RA

I’m a marketing executive's dream. If the product has bright packaging, offers to smooth a wrinkle, to drop a pound, or to make life easier, I want to try it! I’ve worked ...

Read more
What I Wish People Knew About Life With RA

What I Wish People Knew About Life With RA

A woman with RA shares what she'd like other people to know about her condition.

Read more