According to the World Health Organization,
“Disabilities is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations.” http://www.who.int/topics/disabilities/en/
In the almost 4 years since being diagnosed and treated for RA, it has become increasingly evident that I can’t engage in the same level of physical and mental activity as in the past. Yes, the natural aging processes play into this as I can tell that at age 51, I’m not the same person when I was 25. But the effects of RA have sped up that process. Up until about 4-5 years ago, I regularly worked out in a gym and went jogging several times a week. After RA wrecked havoc on my ankles and achilles tendons, that level of activity is no longer possible. It’s a good day when I can take a 20-30 minute walk on a flat surface. The ability to do yard work has slowly diminished. My sons mow the grass now and I wonder who will do it once they all go away to college. Stamina levels are much diminished. Simple activities tire me out. My wife is always reminding me to take it easy and slow down.
The butt kicking fatigue caused by RA is a constant struggle not only physically but also mentally. As a type A personality with a work ethic grounded in strong German and Irish farming stock, I had a level of efficiency and drive to outwork most. Those days are gone and although I’d like to think otherwise, I just don’t have the same level of productivity.
Living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest of the United States, one of my favorite activities has been salmon and trout fishing. There’s nothing like the thrill of hooking a large salmon, reeling it in, and landing it in the net. They are elusive fish, with a short season while they are returning to spawn, and the regulations are designed to protect the fish. Many try but few reach success when trying to catch these prized fish which make for amazing table fare. Because of that, I’m not about to let RA stop me from fishing. The Coho salmon season is right now and my friend with a boat keeps asking me to go knowing that I have sinus surgery scheduled next week. The picture is of an 8 pound coho I caught last week. And I’m off to go again today. But I pay a price for these trips and have to rest afterwards. During the trip, I sometimes need help handling all of the equipment. I just can’t let RA stop me!
While hating to admit it, RA has caused a level of disability affecting physical and mental activity. But as long as I can, I will keep pushing and remain active while learning how to say no and rest when needed.