An old friend found me on Facebook and got in touch recently. It’s been many, many years since we’ve talked; I’ve thought of J frequently and wished fervently we hadn’t lost contact with one another. Needless to say, I was totally delighted to hear from her.
What a lovely gift for the new year!
We chatted with Facebook’s IM function for a while, exchanged email addresses and phone numbers, and promised not to lose touch again. I came away from our short, happy conversation with a big smile on my face. She is one of the most beautiful, joyous people I’ve ever known. From the moment we met, we hit it off. J is a soulfriend. There are so few of those! She has the most wonderful laugh … and the most wonderful heart.
As we talked, I told her I write a couple of blogs. When she read the name of this one, she asked, does that mean you’re still having that awful pain?
I told her I am, but it’s not nearly as awful as it once was. I changed the subject and we talked about other things.
But later, I got to thinking about it. My old friend J is the only person, other than my daughter, who remembers the awful RA flares I used to go through when I lived in Germany. In fact, she frequently stepped in and ran my office for a day or three at a time when I couldn’t make it to work; when I was so crippled from joint pain and so out of it from pain meds that I was barely coherent.
It’s strange how isolated a person can feel with this disease. Cary remembers how I was back then, but her memories are, naturally, those of a child. Since she’s been an adult, she’s never seen me battle a flare as bad as I used to have. Mr Wren and I were married to other people back then. When we first got back together in the early 90s, he knew I limped and gimped now and then and I told him I had RA, but he’s never seen me deal with a serious, truly debilitating flare. My Mom and sister haven’t either. My fearsome memories are mine alone.
Sometimes I feel like I’m whining, like I’m a little too obsessed with the return of my RA symptoms. While they’re not as bad as they were before I went into remission, this disease is so damned sneaky. With each twinge and ache I flash back instantly to those agonizing old days. My mind cringes away from the memories and I fill with dread. I know that rheuma can ramp up at any moment. It won’t give me any warning. And the fact that I haven’t had a truly horrible flare, but just medium-sized, painful ones and little, nagging ones since the symptoms returned does not reassure me that I never will have a really bad one again.
I know better.
And yet I treasure the time I spent living and working in Germany. It was a life-changing time, a time when my mind opened, a time when I learned more than I ever thought I could. The rheuma pain is a part of that time in my life, woven deeply through it. There was so much I did in spite of the debilitating pain.
So. Am I obsessing about my RA? Am I being overwrought? Am I fearing something I have no real reason to fear anymore? I don’t know. But getting back in touch with J and having her validate my memories the way she did went a long way toward putting that niggling worry to rest. I’m not hysterical. I’m not a hypochondriac. This isn’t just in my head. My RA was and is real. I have lived through and coped with truly excruciating pain, and I did it with grace and, to the best of my ability, with a smile on my face.
I remember. And my dear friend does too.