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COLUMN: The war inside my body


I’m not scared of needles, not anymore.

Not after all the tests and blood work, all the bi-weekly injections.

I was finally diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in fifth grade. This kind of arthritis isn’t restricted to old people. My immune system, through some freak mutation, confuses the healthy tissue in my body with foreign substances.

All those microscopic defenders unknowingly destroying what they had sworn to protect.

And I feel it.

Every day I turn more and more into stone. Overwhelming stiffness, dull, aching pain; never intense, but always present. Like a headache in every part of my body at once that never goes away. Rigor mortis in a living corpse.

All those leukocytes mistaking my joints for combatants, insurgents.

The truth is, my internal military is guilty of treason.

They fought for me in a civil war. Friendly fire, innumerable casualties.

But I have to rebel. My medication thins out my immune system, slowing the deterioration of my joints. This also means that when I get sick, I stay sick much longer than the average, non-arthritic person.

Sometimes I think of myself as a spy in my own body. A government sending my troops to die.

My 50mg injections, 4,000 IU pills, physical therapy — all weapons of mass destruction.

I used to feel sorry for myself. I cried me a river and called a “waaambulance.”

Until I realized how lucky I really am. How much I have to be grateful for.

Yes, my body aches — but it’s entirely functional. I’ve never had to know what it’s like to be paralyzed or missing a limb.

I’m not blind or deaf.

I’ve never had to worry about going hungry, nor have I ever been concerned with having a warm bed to sleep in or a safe place to live.

I have a loving family, great friends, a strong education and I’m finding work doing what I love to do: writing.

I’m alive, in every sense of the word.

So I’ll gladly deal with the pills and medication, with my lackluster range of motion and my inability to ward off sickness.

Things could always be much, much worse.

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