Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Halleluja Chorus

Today I sing the praises of the emotionally-charged two-word phrase: normal biopsy.

A biopsy invokes fear in even the strongest among us. No one faces such a test without considering what if; without reflecting on one’s own mortality, and the impact his/her absence would have on loved ones (particularly children). I don’t think I’m unique in that.

It was my reaction to learning that something on a test looked suspicious – that a biopsy was indeed recommended – that surprised me. My knee-jerk response was, “Oh God, what will this mean for my RA – can I still take Enbrel?” Imagine that. Facing the possibility of a terminal illness, my instinctive response was fear surrounding arthritis – not cancer.

That, in a nutshell, is how serious arthritis can be.

I remember years ago, going through a stack of mail filled with requests from various charities. My general rule back then was to toss everything except requests from the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association – the charities I unquestioningly supported, because those were the illnesses that were killing Americans. Arthritis may be painful, but it wasn’t deadly, and my funds were limited.

Now I know better. Arthritis can destroy quality of life. It is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. And despite the inaccurate characterization as a disease of age, arthritis affects people of all ages – including small children. For auto-immune forms of arthritis like mine, onset usually occurs between the ages of 25 – 50. I was 37.

Luckily for me, and millions of others like me, there is help, and there is hope. So for today, I give thanks that my biopsy was normal, and that I won’t need to learn what affect treating cancer would have on my arthritis treatment. Here’s hoping I never find out.

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