I look around me now and can’t quite grasp how I got to this point. I think back to three years ago, almost to the day actually when I received the diagnosis that was to change my life forever, and it’s hard to believe that after all the ups and downs, I am still here... battling on with my whole life before me. I have gained many friends along the way, offering me support and comfort when I could see no way out of the dark spaces I kept falling into. I have also lost friends along the way, I mean the friends who were never really true friends to begin with and showed their true colours when I needed them most.
But I could not be happier when I think of the great friends who are with me now, and have been along my journey.. throughout it all. A friend told me today she was proud of me... but really I am the one who should be proud. And I am, I am so proud of the people who have stuck by me through the endless crap, pain and sorrow my illness has caused, and the hurt I have felt by those who let me down. It takes great strength of character to put aside your own troubles for a moment and listen, I mean really listen, to what someone else is feeling or experiencing and offering them comfort. I am very lucky in this way, because I know a hell of a lot of people who will never let me down, no matter what the future holds.
I guess I am reflecting on what has seemed the hardest part of my life so far because this has been a very big week for me. I am now the proud proprietor of my very own cafe. Yes, me, the girl with arthritis who thought she would never work again, or achieve anything of any worthy following my diagnosis. I have built a business, from scratch, and fought for it, put my blood, sweat and tears into it and I have bloody well done it. I am overwhelmed at the support from not only my friends and family, but from the public and local people who have come along for the ride. I never expected to reach the point where I was actually proud of myself again. Up until now my proudest moment was achieving my degree, or getting the job of my dreams right out of uni. But when that all came crashing down because of this dreaded life sentence, I admit I lost all hope of doing something worthwhile, being someone worthwhile again.
Here I stand today in my beautiful little cafe which belongs to me and I can’t help but smile and cry at what it took me to get here. The thought of working on a massive project like this was daunting enough, but actually going back to a routine, a job again has terrified me more. Once the cafe was finished I had sleepless nights about whether I had it in me to get up every day and go to work, which is ridiculous because people do it every day. But if you don’t have RA, you couldn’t possibly understand the sheer nightmare it is sometimes to even get out of bed in the morning, let alone attempt to face the day ahead. I still have those days, don’t get me wrong, and until a miracle cure is found I know I will for the rest of my life to some degree. But the fact I know I have a beautiful place that I built waiting for me is enough to try and get through those first few painful hours. I have to succeed. Failure is just not an option now and I will keep going... even if I have to be carried to my place of work because I won’t let this destroy my dreams again. I gave into RA once, and it ruined me... because I let it mainly and I didn’t have the support around me that I so desperately needed. Things are different now and the comfort of knowing there are people around to keep me safe and happy is good enough for me to try my very best each day.
I hope that those reading this who are in a dark place right now and have very little hope, for whatever reason, will take notice and know that if I can do it... there is nothing stopping you either. It may take time; it may take a lot of time. But even when the mountain in front of you is humongous and ghastly... you will get over it. It took me three long years and two new hips to get over mine... but I did it. I feel a great sense of achievement today, even though my joints are painful, my body aches and the fatigue is dreadful because of the change in routine to continuous work again. But I hope to adjust to this new role and in time my body will get used to it again. In the mean time... I must sleep. Amazing how tired you can be serving tea and cakes all day to lovely people... But I love my job. And I love this new lease of life. Thank you... you know who you are.