RArainbow

A resource blog for young women living with (Juvenile) Rheumatoid Arthritis


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Red Band Society on FOX

(Spoiler Alert! You’ve been warned! 😉 )

Hi everyone! Today I want to talk about a show that has been making quite an impression on me – FOX’s Red Band Society, which airs on Wednesdays at 9/8c. The show centres on the lives and challenges faced by a few hospitalized teens who are all dealing with various medical conditions. Now, there are quite a few aspects of the show which are pretty unrealistic (such as the fact that these kids are healthy enough to get dressed up, wear make up and drink alcohol but still require in-patient care, the fact that their rooms are amazingly huge, the hospital is amazingly beautiful, their doctor is amazingly beautiful… 😛 ) but I’ll let it slide for the sake of fiction and television and the fact that I actually do enjoy the core ideas of the show itself.

I am not sure who the target audience for this show is meant to be, but I can certainly say that I relate to the characters quite a lot – having grown up with a chronic illness myself. I may not have the same conditions as the characters in Red Band Society, but I surely relate to the fears and concerns that our young characters face.

In the latest (second) episode, I was really touched by Leo’s story and his fears of feeling alone, being the only person there who has lost his leg due to osteosarcoma. Wearing his false leg, he ends up going to a college party where he drinks and rudely tells his friend Dash that he wants to stay at the party. He ends up making out with a girl there and starts panicking when things start heating up in the bedroom. He insults the girl, she leaves and poor Leo ends up falling on the floor, struggling in pain to get back up. I may not be a teenaged guy, but boy did my heart reach out to Leo in that scene.

Living with arthritis, I could imagine Leo’s physical pain as he tried to walk in his new leg. I also understood his emotions of wanting to fit in, have a drink and just be part of the crowd – it’s so much easier than dealing with the reality which illness slaps you with, isn’t it? I also really felt for him during that make-out scene where the girl starts pulling on his pants and he starts panicking about his false leg. When it comes to young life and illness, these are honest and valid struggles which we all deal with and I’m glad that a mainstream show is highlighting stories like these. This show is an interesting combination of edginess, humour, fantasy and beautiful moments which often get me thinking.

While there are aspects of this show which clearly aren’t realistic, I think the aim of this series is to entertain and inspire and I’m all for that. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.

Have any of you guys watched “Red Band Society?” What do you think of it?

Hope you’re all keeping well,
❤ Ms. Rainbow


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For newly-diagnosed patients of autoimmune arthritis

[Note: I’ve written today’s post based on my own experiences with illness. I am not a doctor nor psychologist.) If you are having a hard time adjusting to living with chronic illness, it may be helpful to go to a doctor who may be able to offer you further support. I have also included some helpful resources at the end of this post.]

Hi everyone! Today I have decided to write a post specifically for persons who are still new to their diagnosis of autoimmune arthritis. The Internet wasn’t around when I was diagnosed (wow, I’m that old! 😉 ) so it was really a different situation than one might experience today. It was really only in my teens that I started to have wide access to information on my condition through the Internet. In a way, I am glad about this because I am not sure I would have wanted to read about the reality of Rheumatoid Arthritis at age 7! Having had JRA for over twenty years now, I sometimes meet adults who are older than I am, who have just been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Speaking with them reminds me how scary and traumatic getting an illness can be, as they often express their fears to me about their conditions. When I was diagnosed with arthritis, I remember it being a very intense period in my life, as I was mentally unable to understand why my body was going berserk and why I was not getting better. I was almost 11 years old when my doctor suggested that my arthritis was extremely aggressive and would likely follow me for the rest of my life. Accepting the possibility of arthritis into my life FOREVER was another confusing period and one which took some time to get used to – but I eventually did. Today, at 29, though my arthritis journey is still not smooth nor stable, I feel really comfortable with my arthritis and I now have the knowledge and mental capacity to handle it and whatever happens. To be honest with you, most days I forget that I have arthritis – it has become such an automatic and natural part of my life.

Regardless of what age you are diagnosed with a chronic illness, whether you are 3 or 7 or 11 or 16 or 21 or 28 or 35 or 45 or 65 or 85, I think that it is a huge life changing event which takes some time to get used to. Unless you have somehow been blessed with the wisdom and patience of Mother Teresa, Gandhi and the Dalai Lama combined, when we get diagnosed with a chronic illness like autoimmune arthritis, it is likely going to take some time for our minds and bodies to adjust to the situation. I mean, most of us (if not all of us) never expect to get diagnosed with a life-long painful illness, right? Pre-illness, I think many of us simply assume that “other people” get illness and it’s not a world which we need to worry about.

There has been much scientific work which notes that many patients who live with chronic illness go through the same emotional stages as someone who is facing death or the death of someone else. The KĂźbler-Ross model outlines the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance (Wikipedia). It has been stated that persons living with chronic illness may experience any or all of these stages, in any order and that the amount of time a person spends on a particular stage will differ from person to person.

Why am I discussing this model today? So that you realize that everything you may be feeling right now, those feelings of shock, anger, confusion, numbness, sadness, tiredness and denial are all totally NORMAL. In life, we are often taught to suppress our “negative” feelings (and by negative feelings I’m referring to those emotions that aren’t associated with rainbows and sunshine and pink cotton candy 😉 ). We are told that crying is a sign of weakness and that we must be stronger than those emotions. We are often told that we must learn to control our anger and not allow life situations to get us worked up or to get the best of us. We are made to feel guilty, “unstable” and “weak” if we are not able to handle a situation calmly and with a smile on our faces. While I agree that we must not allow ourselves to get too lost in negativity, I think being diagnosed with a chronic illness is a life event where you’re allowed to express your displeasure!

Personally, I think it is healthy to express all these emotions if you have been diagnosed with a chronic illness. Getting diagnosed with a chronic illness is a huge life-changing event, which will likely affect every aspect of our lives. And the unique thing about chronic illness is that even though you may become used to it, there may still be new health problems which will come up, which will again take some getting used to. In my opinion, expressing all our emotions is the only way we grow, strengthen from the inside and learn how to cope with the situation. And all those emotions eventually help us reach the stage of accepting illness into our lives. The important thing is that we do not stay stuck at a particular stage forever. We must progress from our feelings of anger and sadness eventually, if we are to ever be productive in life.

On youth message boards for arthritis, I’ve seen a question asked over and over by newly-diagnosed patients: “I’m having trouble accepting my illness. I keep crying all the time. How do I proceed to accepting my illness?”

The truth is there is no quick and easy way to accept an illness and just reading a blog post on the Internet isn’t going to automatically help you accept illness. It is a process which takes time and it is dependent on our age, our personalities and our experiences in life. For me, fully accepting JRA into my life happened gradually over the years. As I got older and started to understand the world, life and myself, I was able to understand my situation better. I started to realize that spending too much time feeling sad over arthritis was time taken away from doing activities which brought me happiness, such as travelling, learning and spending time with my amazing friends. I also realized that I could still do a lot, even with arthritis.

As I accomplished more with my arthritis, I became more confident with myself as a young woman with arthritis. I also learned how to adapt and deal with various arthritis-related situations. Time and experience has definitely made it easier for me to cope with arthritis and all the unexpected situations which continue to pop up. There are times when I still get overwhelmed and frustrated (especially when something new happens which I can’t control), but having the experience of knowing I’ve made it through all these years gives me the confidence that I can get through whatever I am faced with (even when I think I can’t).

cando

Image source here. Photo by Nicole Lavelle.

It can take years to make sense of this situation and to fully get used to the fact that arthritis has become a life-long partner.

  • Give it time, and most importantly, try to adopt an attitude of trying, no matter what happens.
  • Be wary of spending too much time on the Internet reading about arthritis, while life goes on around you. Being informed and educated is great, but while you treat your condition, aim to strike a balance. You have to enjoy life too, not so?
  • Even though you’re in pain, still try to do activities that bring happiness into your life. Make sure you have something wonderful to look forward to every day, even if that means simply planning to sit down in your garden with a glass of your favourite ice cream for a half hour.
  • Surround yourself with caring people who love you and will uplift you.
  • Do not be afraid to try new experiences because you have an illness. Although there are instances where we will clearly need assistance or may experience physical limitations, try not to use your illness as an excuse not to try. How will we ever know whether we can do something unless we try, right?
  • Train yourself to think creatively. If you can no longer do certain things because of pain or joint damage, consider visiting an occupational therapist who may be able to suggest a tool or gadget to help your mobility.
  • Do not be afraid of having to use a wheelchair, a walker or crutches. If you limp while you walk, don’t let self-consciousness stop you from going out in public. I know that this is all easier said than done, but have confidence in yourself and be aware of how much you have to contribute in this world.
  • As scary as it all seems, make the conscious effort to keep pushing ahead. Your biggest friend in this whole situation is going to be yourself. Above all else, we have to try and we have to work hard to achieve what we truly want out of our lives. There may be loads of challenges along the way (and there will likely be negative persons as well), but we must train ourselves to remain focused on what we are doing.

There’s a song which does a good job of kicking you in your butt if you find yourself stuck and not progressing in life: Dare you to Move by Switchfoot.

ARE YOU CURRENTLY STRUGGLING WITH YOUR ARTHRITIS? There is no need to feel alone in this situation. Check out Arthritis Care’s Helpline here, where you can email or even phone in to speak to someone confidentially about whatever arthritis-related challenges you may need support with. They even have specific resources for youths here. Instead of dealing with this on your own, reach out to them.

Readers, do you have any advice for newly-diagnosed patients? Are you still struggling to accept your illness? Feel free to leave a comment below so that we can all learn and share together. Thanks!

All the best,
❤ Ms. Rainbow

 

Recommended reading:

 

 

 


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Holiday party tips: Juvenile Arthritis style

Hi everyone! Christmas and New Year’s are quickly approaching and, for many ladies, this means dressing up and going out to fancy parties with friends and loved ones. As you all know, having autoimmune arthritis can really sap your energy. Personally, my arthritis is currently quite active as I’ve become allergic to both Actemra and Remicade 😦  and I’m waiting a bit before I try a new treatment. With a limited supply of energy (spoons!), spending an hour using my flat iron is not at the top of my priority list these days. But, I think we all deserve to look and feel beautiful, even if we are flaring with arthritis. Do you agree? 😉

In this post I’ve compiled some tips for looking put together and preparing for a party even if our arthritis is active and our energy is limited. I hope you’ll find them helpful. Please share any tips and tricks you have so that we can all learn together. 😉

1. Managing our hair
I’ve written a bit about hair care in the past (click here to read). If you have difficulty caring for your hair, but still want to maintain a stylish look, consider getting a haircut. It will make shampooing and styling a lot easier on the joints. Lucky for us, super-short hair and pixie cuts are very fashionable these days. This article from Marie Claire gives some pretty examples of hairstyles you can consider.

When you have arthritis, holding a blow dryer or flat iron for more than a few minutes can be a very painful experience. If you’re experiencing pain, skip the blow drying, rub a little bit of hair serum onto your hair and allow to air-dry.

I found some creative, “lazy” hairstyle ideas on Pinterest, which you can view here for some inspiration. This article from TheDailyMuse.com also lists some easy ideas for styling hair, while the Lazy Girl’s Guide to Hair Care by BeautyRiot.com gives some tips on looking stylish without too much effort.

2. Make-up
If you’re flaring, putting on make-up is probably the least of your worries. But you can still look polished even without a full face of make-up. Consider applying a little eye-liner or a dab of lipstick/tinted lip balm to brighten your face. If you need coverage on your face, think about using a tinted moisturizer or a BB cream to even out your complexion.

3. Shoes
Shoes, shoes, shoes. With the cold weather affecting many of us, this season may bring some extra joint pain and stiffness. That means wearing shoes that are supportive and comfortable, which will aid our walking and hopefully minimize potential joint damage. Now, while wearing our fabulously supportive and comfy arthritis-friendly shoes, it’s very likely that when we go to our Christmas parties the following situation is going to happen:

flats

[Hehe. How many of us can relate to the cartoon above? I want to give a huge thanks to Ms. Bianca from 80 Year Old Teenager for letting me use her drawing. She is so talented and I love her comics! :)]

But you know what? Even if you are the only girl at the party not wearing heels, make sure you rock out your comfy shoes. 😉 Opt for comfortable boots (which will not only support your ankles, but keep them warm), sandals and flats. If you need more arch support, insert insoles/supports into your shoes. Check out BarkingDogShoes.com for some cute, comfortable shoe ideas. I wrote a post on saying goodbye to high-heels a while back which you can check out here for more ideas.

4. Keep warm!
As I mentioned in the point above, the colder weather tends to affect many of us. Ensure that you dress warmly so that your joints can be comfortable. Wear layers, jackets, leggings, scarves and boots to help keep joints warm.

5. Walk with back-up pills
You never know when a flare is going to hit, so make sure you walk with some (doctor-approved) pain medication just in case you need it.

6. Go easy on the alcohol
(Please make sure you’re of legal drinking age if you do plan to consume alcohol.) If you are going to drink at a party, make sure that there will be no interaction with the medications you’re taking. We have enough on our plates without worrying that the alcohol will interact with the medications and cause more trouble for our bodies. Doctors often give warnings about consuming alcohol while taking Methotrexate, so make sure it’s safe to have a drink if you plan to do so.

7. Be confident and have fun!
accessoryYep! It might sound cheesy, but it’s true. Even though arthritis may make us feel crappy and may even hinder our abilities to groom ourselves, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t go out and take part in the festivities. If you are having problems styling your hair, or your hair is falling out due to side-effects of medications, or your face is puffy due to Prednisolone or you can’t wear heels and indeed find yourself being the only girl at the party wearing flat shoes….don’t worry about it. Use your limited energy to go out and have yourself a good time this holiday season. Hey, after everything we go through with our arthritis, I think we all deserve it.  😉

 

Readers, if you have any holiday tips of your own, please share them in the comments below. Thank you! 🙂

Have a wonderful holiday season everyone!
Love and best wishes,
Ms. Rainbow


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Pro Infirmis – “Because who is perfect?” campaign

Hello everyone! Today I wanted to share this amazing video which was created for International Day of Persons with Disabilities earlier this month.

The video’s description states: “Disabled mannequins will be eliciting astonished looks from passers-by on Zurich’s Bahnhofstrasse today. Between the perfect mannequins, there will be figures with scoliosis or brittle bone disease modelling the latest fashions. One will have shortened limbs; the other a malformed spine. The campaign has been devised for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities by Pro Infirmis, an organisation for the disabled. Entitled “Because who is perfect? Get closer.”, it is designed to provoke reflection on the acceptance of people with disabilities. Director Alain Gsponer has captured the campaign as a short film.”

Personally, I loved this video and everything it stands for. Our world has become seemingly obsessed with the idea of “perfection” and “perfect” bodies (whatever that may mean). So where do persons with disabilities/physical challenges/illness stand in this scenario? Not only do we have to contend with the typical pressures of weight and height which a healthy person faces – but we often have to deal with the fact that our bodies may be physically different from that of a healthy person. Some of us have joint damage, crooked limbs, wheelchairs, walking aids etc. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. We are fighters and we are dealing with our situations as best as we can – and I salute all of us for it.

By showcasing the mannequins with disabilities, the managers thrust these body types into the spotlight and made the statement that these bodies are worthy and beautiful. And they sure are.

Mark ZumbĂźhl of the Pro Infirmis Executive Board summarizes the heart of the campaign perfectly: “We often go chasing after ideals instead of accepting life in all its diversity. Pro Infirmis strives especially for the acceptance of disability and the inclusion of people with disabilities.”

So true, right? If we spend all our energy on these conditioned ideals, we may lose out on the beauty right around us. Every person deserves to feel beautiful and to feel accepted. I don’t know why our world has become so overly-critical about appearance and why many people enjoy being mean and putting other people down. But if people are being mean to you, please don’t listen to them. Rather, listen to yourself. If you body has been affected by illness or you were born a little different from others, what does it matter? You are still capable and you are still you. And that’s pretty beautiful. 😉

Readers, what do you think of the video? Feel free to share your opinions in the comments.

Thanks!
Ms. Rainbow


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Strong hands and beautiful joints

If I could tell the world just one thing
It would be that we’re all okay
And not to worry ’cause worry is wasteful
And useless in times like these
I won’t be made useless
I won’t be idle with despair
I will gather myself around my faith
For light does the darkness most fear
My hands are small, I know
But they’re not yours, they are my own
And I am never broken.

Hands – Jewel

Some of you may be familiar with the lyrics of the beautiful song “Hands” by Jewel. Though it is not intended to be about Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA) or other forms of autoimmune arthritis, I think it can apply very well to our situations. Worrying is part of living with illness, but we often reach a point where we realize that we cannot control what’s happening. And from there, we learn to accept and make the best of our situations. The lyrics of the song also apply literally, because when we get Rheumatoid Arthritis our hands are often affected. And that’s what I want to speak about today, among other things.

How many of you reading this have arthritis in your hands? How many of you have joint “deformities” as a result of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis or other types of autoimmune arthritis?

I was diagnosed with JRA at age 7 and by age 8 my right wrist had completely fused and my left had partially fused. A couple of my fingers have what is referred to as “boutonnièrre deformity.” (I plan to have  another discussion on the word “deformity” another time, it’s coming 😉 ). Over time most of my joints have gotten affected and some look a bit squishy and bony and wonky (very scientific terms, I know ;)).

handsI know a lot of us are self-conscious about the way arthritis has affected our hands and other joints. Maybe it’s because I grew up with my damaged joints, but I have never seen them as that big of a deal. My “deformities” are part of me. They’re my fingers and my hands and my joints and they have been through so much pain already. My poor fused ankle has been through two surgeries and I think it’s an incredibly resilient body part.

If anyone makes fun of your joints, don’t ever allow that to make you feel bad about yourself. Your situation is incredibly unique and your body has been affected by aggressive arthritis. Why should you feel bad about that? If you are scared about people teasing you about your deformities, think about it like this: the people who tease you are likely not people you’d want to be friends with if they’re that unkind. The people who take the time to listen to you and learn about your affected joints are extra-special, so when you find them, make sure you cherish them. 🙂

If you are worried about gentlemen friends freaking out when they go to hold your hands, put those fears to rest. A guy who loves you is going to be happy to hold your hands no matter what they look like. Promise! 🙂

Our Arthritis-affected hands are strong and allow us to write exams, to cook, to drive, to sew and to give hugs. Our affected joints allow us to work, to travel and to care for our families. Let’s give our bodies the credit they deserve. They are fighting a battle every day and they are so strong!

Remember also that having autoimmune arthritis isn’t a typical situation which every person experiences. My JRA has taught me to be stronger and to look beyond physical appearances. It’s also taught me to look beyond what persons may say about my body. At the end of the day, those comments don’t affect how our bodies perform physically. So let’s take pride in our bodies, our strengths and our abilities and love ourselves with our arthritis. Elizabeth of That Girl With Arthritis wrote a very inspiring post about being “Chronically extraordinary” and I have to say I completely agree! 🙂

Let’s keep pushing on with our beautifully strong joints and chronically extraordinary selves. 😉

Readers, how do you feel about your affected joints? What has your condition taught you? Feel free to discuss these questions in the comments or leave advice for those who are still learning to accept their amazingly beautiful bodies.

All the best!

Ms. Rainbow

[Image by pixabay.com]


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Goodbye high-heels/How to feel confident while wearing grandma shoes when you’re not a grandma (or even if you are)

[Disclaimer: Grandmas are beautiful and strong women who often give us strength. This post is not intended to offend anyone who is a grandmother. ;)]

Hi everyone! Today I’m discussing a topic which is often a source of frustration for young women who are growing up with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis:

High-heels. Whenever I turn on the television I’m flooded with images of women modelling infinite variations of sky-high heels. When I go out to parties it seems that every young woman is decked out in the latest high-heeled style. When I was growing up, even my Barbie doll’s ankles were permanently bent at an angle so she could wear heels. In our society we tend to associate high-heels with sexiness, womanhood and overall female va-va voom, right?

heelsWhen you have Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, however, wearing high heels is sometimes a painful and physically impossible feat (pun intended ;)), as you might have swollen, painful joints which may be damaged or even fused. So how do women (especially young women) feel when they can’t participate in a trend which has become such an integral part of being a woman in our western culture?

As a teen I loved my heels, as painful as they were on my JRA-affected ankles and knees. Wearing heels made me feel good about myself… and also helped me from drowning in crowds of people, as I am not very tall! 🙂 However, by the age of 25 one of my ankles had become so damaged and fused that walking in heels became physically impossible (and painful), so I was forced to say goodbye to my heels. Fashion has had to take a backseat as I now wear flat shoes with lots of support. Sensible shoes have taken the place of fancy strappy heels. I know that when I dress up with flats, my look doesn’t quite have that va-va voom effect that my friends have with their high heels. But it’s okay. I might not have heels to give me that va-va voom effect, so I try to get my va-va voom from the inside. 😉 While they may not be “sexy” to many persons, I am determined to rock my comfy grandma shoes and my grandpa-style loafers. Do you think we can start a new RA-friendly shoe trend, ladies?

I still think heels make a woman look sexy, but now I think that sexiness – true sexiness – comes from the inside, from your personality and who you are. It comes from your confidence as a woman, which in turn comes from how much you love yourself. And unlike heels, that inner sexiness and confidence stays with you always, even when your shoes are off.

My dear beautiful ladies, if you can’t wear heels:

1. Love yourself! Learn to love everything about your unique self. Whether you can wear heels or not should not impact how you feel about yourself on the inside. With or without heels you are still a beautiful woman who has a lot to offer this world – make sure you remember that! Think about the qualities you like about yourself and realize how amazing you are. 😉

2. Do activities you enjoy, such as sports, art, cooking, singing, learning a new language, playing an instrument etc. – whatever makes you happy, go for it. Doing activities we love helps us to feel happier and more confident in our abilities.

3. Realize your skills, strength and unique personality and get your confidence from that. You might not have the confidence booster of wearing heels, but you can show off your beautiful personality and unique talents instead.

4. Rock those grandma shoes! Whatever shoes you’re wearing, wear them confidently. So what if every young woman is wearing heels and towering over you as you showcase your comfortable grandpa-loafers? Be confident in yourself and give those comfy shoes the love they deserve by showing them off proudly!

5. Find cute flat shoes. If you can’t wear heels, that doesn’t mean you can’t look cute and polished. Try looking for comfortable flat boots, ballet flats, loafers or sandals. I found some great fashion tips for ladies who are unable to wear heels in this article from About.com. There are actually many pretty shoes which you can wear if your ankles are weak, although it might take some effort to find them. Check out BarkingDogShoes.com which reviews comfortable shoes for problematic feet. If you find cute flats which don’t offer enough support, try adding insoles for extra comfort. Kiran from The Life of a Porcelain Doll shares some very useful shoe tips for young ladies with JRA in this article.

I know that many young women who have Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis struggle between being fashionable and being in pain due to JRA-affected ankles, knees and hips. Remember that shoe styles may come and go, but your personality will always be in. So make sure you show it off. 😉

Readers, feel free to share your shoe stories or recommendations in the comments below!

 

Until next time,

Take care of those feet ladies! 🙂

Ms. Rainbow

 

[Image by pixabay.com]


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Loving yourself with (Juvenile) Rheumatoid Arthritis

girlAlthough (Juvenile) Rheumatoid Arthritis causes internal pain and damage, it can also affect our bodies physically, which can in turn affect how we feel about our bodies as young women.  Apart from causing us to limp and have to use braces, orthopaedic shoes, walking aids or wheelchairs, JRA can destroy joint tissue and affect the growth of our bones, especially when it affects young children whose bodies are still growing. Gaining muscle mass may be difficult when joints are painful and damaged. Scars remain where we’ve had replacements or joint surgery. In addition, medications can have side effects which are seen physically. Methotrexate is known to cause hair to fall out, while corticosteroids are infamous for causing rapid weight gain and a “moon face” and can lead to early osteoporosis in the long-term.

But you know what? JRA or no JRA, we deserve to be loved by ourselves. Do you agree?

JRA (and heavy usage of corticosteroids) has made me a super petite woman. My joints all look a bit wonky and creak-creak-creak like nobody’s business. Growing up, many people would make fun of my body, as I’m sure many of you reading this have experienced yourselves. It hurt and I cried many nights into my pillow over it, but you know what? I still liked my body. I liked my body because I knew for a fact that it was incredibly strong to withstand all that pain. My joints were sick and they were mine and I had to take care of them and love them, just as I took care of my Barbie dolls when their arms and legs broke off and I had to tape them back together. I knew my body was a little different, but it was okay. I was fighting bigger battles and I knew I had to stay focused and take care of myself. In learning to accept JRA into my life, I also learned to let go of other people’s negativity and my self-consciousness and to accept how it was affecting my body.

As I got older, my situation got better. I continued being myself and doing whatever I was passionate about. At college I joined clubs, I danced the nights away with friends and I enjoyed my classes. I was studying English at the time and I was always surprised when guys would lure me into discussions about Shakespeare, even if it was 3am and we were at a party. They respected my opinions, they liked my jokes and they liked me, tiny JRA body and all. They didn’t seem to notice my crooked joints and swollen fingers and super-creaky elbows. Even if they did, they never mentioned it – because in the big picture I realized those things didn’t matter.

I also realized that whether guys found me attractive or not wasn’t something I should worry about. Truly, the opinion which mattered the most was my own. If you love yourself you feel happy, comfortable and at peace and no one can take that away from you. If someone doesn’t find you attractive, so be it. If someone does find you attractive, it’s flattering but that shouldn’t be the validation you need to feel good about your body. Do you agree? Even if you think no one sees beauty in your body, I want you to see the beauty in your body. See the beauty in your body which has experienced hard times but is still trooping along.

You might think that the marks of (J)RA detract from your beauty, but you know what I see when I read through arthritis blogs? I see truly beautiful and strong women who are fighting for their dreams with the cards they’ve been dealt. Elizabeth of The Girl With Arthritis wrote this wonderful piece where she referred to all the physical marks of auto-immune arthritis as our “battle scars.” I couldn’t have put it better myself. When you have JRA you’re fighting a battle every day and sometimes the effects of that battle show on your body. There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of – if anything, your battle scars show what your body has endured. They are beautiful. So wear them proudly and with your head held high.

I know that when we turn on the television and look at magazines we see image after image of perfectly toned women with sculpted arms and legs – and healthy joints. We hear our friends obsessing about how they’ll have the perfect body once they keep working out. For us, it may seem like we never had a shot at that “perfect” body because of JRA. But you know what? Your body is perfect just the way it is at this very moment – because it’s yours.

Let’s love ourselves ladies. Our bodies are going through a lot – let’s be kind to them and love them, exactly the way they are.

Love your hands, love your joints, love your face even when you’re taking corticosteroids, love your uneven bones, love your hair even when you can’t brush it and love your scars. Love your reliable wheelchair which takes you everywhere you want to go. Love your unique personality, love your strength, love your talents and love your quirks. Before you go seeking love from other persons, first learn to love yourself. You deserve to be loved by yourself. Don’t you think so?

Loving ourselves takes time and is a process. There are still days when I look at my bones and joints and realize how physically fragile they are. It scares me but I try to love them anyway – because they deserve to be loved. If you don’t love yourself already, I want you to start trying. Start learning to love every single thing which makes you who you are.

As women with (J)RA, I think the most important “I love you” we’ll ever say in life is the one we say to ourselves.

So even if it takes time, let’s make sure we learn to say it. 😉

 

Wishing you all the best, pretty ladies 🙂

Ms. Rainbow

[Image source: graphicsfairy.blogspot.com]