If you're new around here, or maybe even if you've been around awhile, you might not know that I have an autoimmune disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis. Most people think arthritis is pain that their grandparents get in their joints because of aging, and that is one type. I happen to have an autoimmune disorder, which means that one day, my immune system woke up and believed that every one of my joints was foreign and should be attacked. My immune system mistakenly attacks my joints, such as my hands, my knees, my elbows, my wrists, my jaw, my neck, etc and causes intense swelling, inflammation and debilitating pain.
When I was first diagnosed, Ronnie and I had been officially a couple for two months. Two months people, and his fun loving, wild, free girlfriend turned into a dark, depressed girl who couldn't wash her own hair or turn a handle on a door knob. It was a dark time in my life, and for any normal new relationship, odds say we shouldn't have made it. But here we are, married, and in love and I have to tell you, I never saw Jesus so much in a single person as I did in those first few months of my disease.
Eighteen months ago, my doctor prepared me for the fact that I might not be well enough to run ever again. Cue identity crisis. If I wasn't a runner, who was I? When your world is rocked with a diagnosis of a life-long disease, its real easy to see where your hope lies. Where your identity is found. When everything I loved felt like it was being taken from me, I felt lost, angry and abandoned.
But eighteen months later-and my life has been radically changed by this disease. I had a season of darkness, but now, I am finally feeling back to normal. I've seen that God is trustworthy, even when life is hard. I've learned that the only thing I can place my hope in is Jesus. I've seen how God provides for his children, even in the most tangible of ways like a medicine that has completely rid my body of almost every symptom of rheumatoid arthritis, as long as I do not miss my weekly injection. I've seen people come around me to love on me, to care for me and to pray for my healing.
Eighteen months after my diagnosis, and by the grace of God, I am training for a half marathon. Eighteen months after hearing "you may never run again" and I am running often, I am running hard, and I am running long. The other day, I was complaining and groaning about not wanting to do my long run to my friend and running partner, Molly. I asked her "Why did we sign up for a half marathon again?" And her words have stuck with me. "Because you want to kick your RA's butt."
Thats right. This half marathon coming up isn't about me winning a medal or breaking a personal record. Its to prove to myself that I am capable of overcoming this. To remind myself that I can do hard things. To encourage anyone out there who might be battling with their own medical issues that a diagnosis is not the end. That challenges we are faced with help us grow in a way we might never get to otherwise. Running to me is a gift. Its a second chance I honestly am so thankful to have received. Not everyone gets a second chance after a diagnosis like this, and so I am so grateful to have the ability to do what I love. Sometimes I catch myself complaining, but then I remember just how lucky I am to have the choice to run. To not be held back by health limitations. For this, I am thankful.