Over the last few years, some people have faded out of my life after RA made it impossible to do most things I used to do. Some people didn’t want to hear about illness, or pain or medicine. They didn’t understand what I meant when I said “can’t.” I never ask for sympathy for being sick. I just want to be a regular person, whatever that is.
The secret of learning to be sick is this: Illness doesn’t make you less of what you were. You are still you. ~ Tony Snow
I got my hair cut the other day. For many years, I would wait six months between haircuts, touching up the front and letting the back grow long. Lately, I’ve been going a lot more often. Maybe, it’s easier for me with the RA. And maybe there are other reasons?
No one was more surprised I actually had Rheumatoid Arthritis than I was. Even my hairdresser remembers it. She started cutting my hair right before the RA got so bad. I remember being afraid to let her touch me because I hurt so much.
She saw me when I couldn’t raise my hands up over my head at all. I was such a horrible mess that the only time I ever looked groomed was when she finished with me. She knows how sick I actually do look on the days I can’t eat from the RA fevers. At times, she’d say, “You don’t look good.” And she’d know that it was somehow a complement to have someone notice that.
Other times, she’d work her magic to make me look good and then pay me the complement. The most comfortable moments I had some days were while she massaged my neck. She had no idea what Rheumatoid Arthritis was and I remember her looking puzzled when I finally told her about my illness. RA sounded so far-fetched since most of my symptoms were invisible. I remember wondering if she believed me.
Over the years, she has watched me go through all the treatment changes and setbacks. Last week she said, “It must be so hard for you having this disease since I know you would rather not take medicine.” How did she know? Well, she’s pregnant with her first baby right now, so she had asked me about childbirth. I told her I had all my babies at home. We laughed that we both have a little of a hippie streak.
For years, I struggled to find someone who could do a good job on my hair. Who would have thought I’d find her and then be gladder about how she treated me than how she fixed my hair? She doesn’t treat me like I’m sick. She doesn’t insist that I’m not. She just treats me like a regular person.
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