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  • Saskia Müller

Dealing With Progression

Rheumatoid Arthritis, a condition that has become an unwelcome companion in my life, is relentless in its progression. This unyielding nature is one of the most vexing aspects of the disease, something that every patient inevitably grapples with. The grim reality is that not only am I not getting better, but I am continually getting worse. What's even more disheartening is the utter unpredictability of this deterioration.

Many people I've encountered since I started relying on mobility aids seem to have difficulty grasping the progressive nature of Rheumatoid Arthritis. They didn't witness the drastic transformation that unfolded in my life. The progression is now discernible to only me, my family, and my physical therapists. There are still shifts and changes in my condition, but they are far subtler than the stark transition from my once-able self to someone dependent on mobility devices.

Reflecting on my childhood, I can't help but remember the days of being an active, carefree kid. I was involved in gymnastics, dancing, cheerleading, and even tennis. I was just like any other child my age, never identified as the "girl with a walking stick" or "the one with RA." It wasn't until I reached the age of 14 that I began to sense that something might be amiss. At that point, I brushed it off as growing pains, thinking it was simply a phase. However, by the time I turned 16, I started to have serious concerns about my health. That was when I first voiced my worries to my doctor, leading to a series of medical appointments and tests. Eventually, at the age of 20, the diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis was confirmed.

There are numerous reasons why the progression of Rheumatoid Arthritis is so exasperating, with unpredictability topping the list. The day you receive your diagnosis, your doctor cannot foretell the precise moment you'll find walking difficult. The element of surprise haunts me the most – the realisation that, when I least expect it, I could lose an ability that I had taken for granted. The struggle to accomplish once effortless tasks often brings me to tears.

Progression is an insidious process. It didn't happen overnight, with me suddenly waking up unable to walk properly. Yet, it remains one of the most formidable challenges of this disease. Continuously adapting and learning new ways to navigate life's daily tasks is a relentless endeavour. Coping with progression is an ongoing battle, one that leaves me drained, both physically and mentally.

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