Saturday, April 30, 2016

Champions of Yes

     The 2016 Triangle Walk to Cure Arthritis was a success! I was able to meet so many amazing people, spend time with family and friends, and be in the presence of dozens of other people dealing with the exact same thing, and for that I am extremely grateful. Thank you to everyone who supported Team Rachel's Rock Stars, either by donating or by coming out to the walk today! Our team did the 3 mile walk, which was lots of fun, but I am definitely paying for it now, because I have been in bed since 2 o'clock this afternoon and my knees, hips, and ankles are revealing their wrath.

Receiving the Young Adult Honoree certificate after my story was read.
Thank you, Arthritis Foundation (special shout-out to Candy Fuller!)*
      Experiences like these always cause me to reflect a bit more than usual. How did I get to this point? Where am I going?

     The truth is, getting to this point has been quite a tumultuous journey, and even though I have learned a great deal and grown significantly as a person during this time, if I could trade all of the pain in for a healthy body I would make the switch in a heartbeat. If there was a magical pill that could cleanse my body of all of its arthritis, I would take it. Unfortunately, neither of these scenarios are viable options, so I am working with what I have been given.

     The truth is, the point I am at now is not perfect either. As I admitted to a friend yesterday, I still have spontaneous nights of grief, in which I am sad that my body hurts so much and I wish that I could keep up with everything and everyone. It feels wrong to be mourning the loss of a portion of my health five years after my diagnosis, but whether or not it is justified does not change its existence, and so I am learning that mourning is something that may take a lifetime rather than a few weeks.

    The truth is, while I am completely honored by the recognition I received today from the Arthritis Foundation, I would rather there be a cure. Yet I am thankful that this organization has the same goal and values, and my life has been drastically changed by the resources I have had the privilege of accessing.

     The truth is, events like the walk today push me to be a better person. I feel recommissioned and reinvigorated to work meaningfully in the communities and relationships I immerse myself in. Seeing people come together for a common cause inspires me to be a more effective advocate, a more loving friend, and a more empathetic human being. The wonderful thing about these goals is that they are completely attainable, and one can start at any second. Maybe it means calling a friend you have not talked to in awhile, or forgiving the driver in front of you who made a dangerous decision, or genuinely complimenting someone who is doing something well. Everyone is capable, and it is always the right time. So how can you love someone right now, whether or not you think they deserve it or have done anything to earn it? How can you push yourself to be more caring and forgiving and invested than you ever thought possible?

Walking with some cool parents*
       The truth is, I feel like I have an insider's perspective on what it actually means to walk through something hard with someone. I think about my parents, and how they have stuck with me and seen me through and prepared me for what is next (in Louisiana!!!). I think about my teachers, who have raised their eyebrows with authoritative compassion as they have confiscated numerous pencils and said, "Rachel, no," when I have insisted on writing long in-class essays with painful hands. I think about my friend Faith, who generally responds with a short pause and a doubtful, "Really?" when I lie and say that I feel better than I do. All of these are lovely examples of how to walk with someone, and how to be there for someone. And it's not always mushy (though it often is, especially if you are walking with a person like me who seems to be predisposed to mushiness), and it's not always funny, and it's not always sad, and it's not always difficult.

     The truth is, this journey has not been very fun, and it is not something I would wish upon anyone. But this journey is made easier by organizations and people that are willing to support each other. We will find a cure. We are Champions of Yes.

*Photo Credits: Faith Jones (thank you!!!!)

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