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Excerpt from  Chapter 1

“The Journey Begins” 


"Meaning helps us see in the dark.”

                                                    ~ Rachel Naomi Ramen

    I once went to a rheumatologist who examined my hands and remarked that I suffered a great deal of pain. I told him that although I had suffered significant pain in the past, I had been fairly pain free for a long time. “No,” he said, “I can see from your hands that you have a great deal of pain.” Doctors may sometimes assert their expertise in denial of your right to your own physical situation and even, sometimes, of your own history.

     If I could have gone into my diagnosis with an understanding of the limitations of the medical field, with the knowledge that I’m much more than my diagnosis, I would not have been quite so devastated by the doctor’s words. If I could have tempered what he was saying with awareness of the spiritual and other resources around and within me, and a conviction that my story is mine alone to write, I could have saved myself a great deal of suffering. But that’s not the way these events usually happen. It’s only later, after the diagnosis, that we gradually discover who and what we really are.

     To make matters worse, I added to my own distress by imagining the direst consequences. Even though I knew that rheumatoid arthritis was rarely a fatal disease, my mind rushed to the scariest scenario. I was immediately immersed in images of my stepmother, as I watched her slow anguished death. I saw myself going through the same awful process.

     Irrespective of how it is delivered, a diagnosis places us in a category for which we assume we will all have similar outcomes. It’s taken me a long time to become aware of how I allowed memories of what happened to my stepmother to worsen my own situation.
Now I do much better. When I remember my stepmother’s difficult death or see someone wrestle with the challenges of severe arthritis, I gently remind myself that their experiences and mine are not identical. Each of us follows a unique and different path, and it’s important to realize that we are much more than our disease.



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