We are each of us angels
As a person with chronic arthritis is faced with more and more limitation and disability, it becomes increasingly difficult not to focus on those negative aspects. As illness results in more changes, the person passes through stages of anger, denial, and frustration. A sedentary life can become a way of life, while isolation begins to feel comfortable.
There are people suffering with arthritis though who realize that the disease does not steal away everything that is good in life. By accepting the limitations imposed, focusing on what they can do rather than what they can not do, these people serve as an inspiration. They inspire by example and by the way they choose to live their life.
Keeping a positive attitude
On our arthritis forum we asked, Let's face it - having arthritis makes life more difficult. Difficult, but not impossible. What in your life has helped you to maintain a positive attitude? Is there any bit of advice you'd offer to others about maintaining a positive attitude?
Kay replied, "There are times in life when laughter is inappropriate, but I believe, my sense of humor, lots of laughter throughout my lifetime with loving, understanding family and friends by my side has made my struggle with rheumatoid arthritis easier. Also, I have an inner strength that pushes me on. My mind and body working together to combat all I am confronted with have helped me graciously accept the blessings I now am enjoying. I just refuse to let rheumatoid arthritis ruin my life. Stubborn is a good quality sometimes."
Pat replied, "You can, without a doubt, gain strength and pickup yourself by giving support to someone else. Time is far too precious to spend on self-pity. Look around and soon you will find someone that needs you more than you need yourself. The support that you give becomes your inspiration and inner strength."
A tribute to a dear friend
"We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can fly only by embracing each other." This dynamic quote from L. deCrescenzo likens people to one-winged angels. Though imperfect, by reaching out and embracing others we can soar. It is an extraordinary person who chooses to embrace life, rather than shun life, especially when cloaked with illness.
My husband and I lost a dear friend in June, 2001. Cherie Thompson's life was cut short at age 39 by a fatal lung complication, secondary to rheumatoid arthritis. Diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) as a young teenager, Cherie faced all the challenges which are so familiar to people who live with chronic arthritis, including the biggest challenge of all - how to maintain a positive attitude and good quality of life without surrendering to the disease.
Cherie will be remembered for her infectious smile, contagious laugh, gentle spirit, determination, and commitment to helping others. For 8 years, Cherie served as a volunteer camp counselor at Camp Esperanza in Southern California. Having lived with JRA herself, it was important for Cherie to reach out to kids going through the same experience. She had a unique connection with them.
Nine years ago, in an article which appeared in the San Bernardino Sun newspaper, Cherie said, "They didn't have camps like this when I was a kid, so I think I'm kind of reliving that part of my childhood. I had no interaction with other kids with arthritis." Cherie continued, "I think it would have brought out my self-confidence earlier. This experience seems to build self-esteem."
Cherie essentially helped herself by helping others. While building the self-esteem of young kids with arthritis, her own self-esteem was enhanced.
As in the classic movie "It's A Wonderful Life", Jimmy Stewart's character was shown just how much he touched the people around him. It is not always immediately evident how much we impact others. Cherie made a difference in the lives of many. She will forever be remembered as an angel who reached out and embraced others.
In memory of Cherie Thompson - the About.com Arthritis Angel Award, awarded to extraordinary individuals in recognition of outstanding effort to enlighten, encourage, and embrace others within the arthritis support community, will be inscribed with her name and sent to her family.