When I was two, I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. Although I can’t remember the experience I went through (I was only two!), I imagine it to be a very difficult part of my life. I was small and I didn’t know what was wrong with me, because to diagnose you with arthritis, they basically have to rule out everything else. As I grew up I learned to live with the fact that I would go to sleep at night wondering whether the next day would be one filled with pain. I had to expect pain, because if I didn’t anticipate it, or predict the intensity of it, the next day would be much worse when I woke up hurting, and if I did expect it, and no pain came, it would make the day that much better.
Many times, this pain depressed me. I would always wonder why I had to have something wrong with me. There was always some type of pain holding me back from being able to do things with everyone else, like running the mile in gym, because contrary to everyone’s beliefs, sitting out from the mile did not make me feel lucky. I couldn’t stand or sit for too long, and I couldn’t run like everyone else, and I have to give myself a shot every week. Every time this happens, I think that arthritis is the worst thing in the world for a kid to have. I used to believe that everyone had it better than I did.
As I got older, I went to St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, where they had diagnosed me with arthritis, for monthly checkups. Whenever I went, I had to get blood drawn, and I had to sit in the waiting room for hours. I dreaded these visits because it made my situation that much harder to push away, and ignore.
One day, as I was walking to the Rheumatology department, I walked past the Radiology department of the hospital, and through the window, I saw children there, kids my age, with no hair and in wheelchairs. They were waiting for the doctor, just like I did every month, except that many of them lived at the hospital, and they didn’t get to go home and have a somewhat normal life. They had to go to sleep at night, not just wondering whether they would be in pain the next day, but wondering if they would wake up, or if today would be their last.
In that minute as I walked past the room and caught that view, something shifted inside of me. I realized, maybe I don’t have it as bad, because one of the things that arthritis can’t do to you, is kill you. I understood that I could actually live a normal life and I could pretend that I didn’t have arthritis, but the children I had just saw, and other children with much worse diseases couldn’t pretend and imagine things away. They had to live with the things that God gave them and try to make the best of their situations.
I tried to look at my life from one of those children’s point of view. Those kids would trade anything just to have arthritis. I decided that I wouldn’t let things hold me back anymore. That I wouldn’t let having arthritis consume my life and dictate to me what I could and couldn’t do. I began playing sports, and running. I tried to do everything just like everyone else. Seeing those kids had made me put my life in perspective.
This I believe; where ever you go, there will always be people with more or worse problems. You should let these problems form the way you live your life, but in a positive way. You can’t just make your problems go away, and you shouldn’t try. Your problems make you a stronger person, because you overcome them and learn to try and step out of the box that they draw around, your limitations.
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