But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I am not addicted to pain, I’d rather not live with it, and I don’t want to be a martyr to it, but if ever given the choice of going back and reliving the past 32 years without the chronic pain of Rheumatoid Arthritis, I’d say no thanks, I’ll take it – and all of the life lessons the pain has brought.
I was diagnosed at age six with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. It immediately brought pain and stiffness…and bullying from young classmates who thought I was lucky to get to miss school. What they didn’t realize was that I was getting blood tests, painful injections and physiotherapy sessions to manipulate my stiffening joints.
I was different than my peers at a tender time in life when different was the last thing most kids wanted to be. But over the years I have learned to not only come to terms with my disease but to also embrace it – accepting that what has made me different has also made me special, and it has made me strong.
My experiences with this disease and its debilitating pain, stiffness and deformation of joints that have required surgery, has been the greatest contributing factor to my character, work ethic and resiliency. Without this disease, who would I be, where would I be, and what would I be doing? Obviously I cannot know but one thing is for sure – I would be a very different person. I like who I am, where I am and what I have done, so it stands to reason that if there was any way to go back and change the course of my life, I’d choose to stay on the same path.
I’ve had an incredible career so far, excelling as a journalist. I have been a television reporter, host, writer and producer, a radio reporter and producer, writer for newspapers, magazines and web sites, editor-in-chief of a magazine and in March of this year I will debut my brand new e-magazine, co-created with two other superstars.
Sixteen years ago when I started my career in the media as a television reporter, a huge change came over me. Once I got over the astonishment of being asked to be on camera (me, the girl with the ugly hands and the stiff movements), I experienced an awakening. It was in watching myself on the screen that I finally began to see myself…and more importantly, to like and feel comfortable with what I saw.
I have been called an old soul by those who know me, and I like to think that I have lessons to teach others that come from the experiences I have had. I pepper presentations that I give school groups and classes of medical and physiotherapy students with these tidbits gleaned from my years with pain as my constant companion.
And so I’d like to share with you over the next five days, what pain has taught me.
God, the universe, the world, the government (choose your deity/group/organization) doesn’t owe anyone anything.
I guess this lesson could be called, Life Isn’t Fair. Because, it isn’t…but as the kids like to say these days, it is what it is. People in unfortunate circumstances sometimes get stuck in the rut of, “If only..” or, “It’s not fair…” and that, frankly, is a waste of precious time.
Life won’t be easier in some way (in any way) for someone in pain all the time.
I have met people who have a disease or disability, or who suffer from chronic pain like I do, who have a sense of entitlement, like they deserve only good things because of what they go through. Well, I do deserve good things — we all do, but for the good we do, not the pain we feel.
It is terribly easy to fall into the trap of, “I have a harder time of it and so it should be easier for me in another way.” But life doesn’t balance out that way. The fact is, you have to play the hand you’ve been dealt, no matter how awful the cards may be.
I hope you’ll come back throughout this week to find out the other life lessons that chronic pain have taught me.