I have a lot to give thanks for this year.  A beautiful wife, amazing children, three grandchildren, okay health, the opportunity to be myself, a nice house, and the list goes on and on.  Still, I am often asked what about your RA or diabetes?  Surely these chronic illnesses must make you unhappy?  And I always respond the same: Yes they do.  So, if I have these issues why am I thankful?  It is actually fairly simple; I am thankful even with my RA and diabetes.

rickthankfulmemeI know it is easy to complain; I do as most everyone I know who shares even one of these illnesses. But I’ve learned to keep my complaining in perspective, look beyond myself and find what is positive in life.

As I take inventory this year, I find many positives. Here are a few of the things I am thankful for:

 

Laughter:

I love to laugh.  I get through days and often nights because I laugh.  I look for and usually find humor everywhere.  I see it in the doctor’s office when I have to wait, I laugh at the infusion center, I ask for a children’s sticker when I see a doctor (and I wear it).

Increasingly, I seek ways to laugh, and I do not mean a chuckle, I laugh with gusto even if some around me react as if I’m laughing too loudly. When it comes to laughing, frankly I am beyond embarrassment.  I figure it this way:  I am 58, I can no longer work, my dog likes me most days and I have RA.  This year I am thankful for the opportunity to be able to express my laughter as loudly as I want without fear of recrimination from those who do not appreciate a good guffaw.  That is something to be thankful for.

 

Community:

I have met some wonderful people with whom I share RA and Diabetes.  The truth is, without diabetes and RA in my life, these friends would never have entered my life.  I find that people are positive and helpful.  We care for and about each other.  We strive to find collective hope in the simple act of perseverance and I so admire that trait in the people I meet.

A few days ago I was fortunate to attend a few days of the American College of Rheumatology meeting.  While at the meeting, I met others with RA or other forms of arthritis, and every single person was interested in how I was doing just as much or more than I was concerned about them.  The more I put into learning about this community the more I get out.  There is no question that being part of the RA and diabetes communities has helped me get along better.

 

Medicine:

I have had RA for 15 years and Diabetes for 41.  I live in an amazing time.  Our medicine has never been more effective, our treatments have never been more successful and our devices have never been better.  We enjoy unparalleled benefits of scientific discovery and that helps us live longer and fuller lives.

We still have a long way to go.  But consider this: in 1980 methotrexate was first used with 21 patients to test its effectiveness with rheumatoid arthritis.   Enbrel entered Phase 1 trials in 1993.  In 1999 Remicade was approved for the treatment of RA.

Today we have a host of medicines that are used to treat RA.  I have been on six biologic medicines and three DMARDS since 1999 when I was diagnosed.  These medicines, my doctors, and my sheer stubbornness has kept me going.  I was so fortunate to be diagnosed when I was, because just a few years earlier the standard treatments would have been primitive when compared to our modern medicines.  And yes I think we have a long way to go, but today I am so thankful for the medicines we have available.

 

Emotion:

I have not always been the best at telling others about how I feel or what I was thinking.  RA and diabetes have helped me express myself more completely.  My wife (we have been married 38 years) has often commented that she has learned much about me since I have been blogging for the last three years.  Things she never knew about me are now expressed in written form on my various blogs.

Blogging has given me an outlet for discussing these things.  It is doubtful however that any of that would have come out if I had blogged about topics other than RA and Diabetes.  Today, after over 350 blogs most people who want to know about me can find almost everything they want online.  That includes someday my grandchildren if they are ever interested in reading about me.

 

The Future:

I have not always been thankful for the future.  There have been times when I could not see the positive in my life.  Those times have usually been as the result of external influences.  Yes, RA has been terrible.  But when I think of the future, I see great opportunities.  I hope that you also see the great opportunities that lay ahead of us.  We live in an incredible time.  Will RA and Diabetes ever be cured?  I doubt it.  Will it be controlled?  I have absolutely no doubt.  In fact, I believe it so firmly that I have become future focused.  I hope you will join me because things are getting better.  After all, when one of our grandchildren says “Poppa let’s play cars” well, how can I be anything but positive about the future. J