RAers and Olympians

I’ve had a slightly rougher week than usual.  Whenever I have a hard time, I look for motivation.  It was then that I noticed something, and, well, it’ll  just be easier to let you hear the whole story:

Since the return of the winter olympics, I’ve been thinking a lot about the past.  As a kid, I knew of the olymipcs, but never cared enough to sit down and watch them until the 2002 Salt Lake City games.  It was probably a combination of seeing the Olympic train when it came through Malvern, AR, and reading about the rising Salt Lake athletes in our little “Weekly Readers” in grade school that got me interested in watching that year.  All I know for sure is that I fell in love with everything about the games: the opening ceremony, the olympic flame, the athletes, the games.  I knew then that I wanted to do something awesome, like Apolo Ohno, Sarah Hughes, Kelly Clark or Michelle Kwan.  Not necessarily sports, just something.

The next year I severely broke my arm, keeping me out of any athletics.  I took this to be a sign that God wanted me to concentrate on music, but when I started to get really great at the drums, I was diagnosed with RA.  I was fifteen.

Just a few months after being diagnosed, the winter Olympics were back.  I felt like I was 11 years old again, eager to watch Apolo, Shaun White (aka the Flying Tomato) and Shani Davis.  I was captivated by the games, I’d sneek onto the internet in school just to check the medal rankings and to make sure my favorite athletes and teams were getting through to the finals later that night.  The return of the olympics brought back all the feelings I had four years ago: I wanted to so something great, like all these awesome Olympians.  But this time, with the RA, I REALLY didn’t know how I would be able to.

It’s taken me years, but I think I’ve finally figured it out.  The dedication, the drive, the sacrifices, everything my favorite athletes do and have done to achieve gold, everything I wanted to do…isn’t that much different than what RAers do.  Or anyone with a life-altering disease.

The sacrifices we RAers make are always in the for-front of our minds.  Be we do it to stay healthy, we do it knowing, hoping, that our efforts can mean a better year/month/day.  It’s part of how we prepare to take on our adversary: Rheumatoid Arthritis.  It’s the same as what Apolo does to prepare for his games.  For Vancouver, Ohno dropped twenty pounds.   He worked out steadily, and stated that no other speed skater would be able to match how fit he is.  Think he did that just for the heck of it?  No.  I’m pretty sure Mr. Ohno missed his fast food, leisure time, etc.  But none of that is important when you have such a huge goal in front of you.  The little things you give up fade to the background, because they just aren’t as important anymore.

Figure skating pair Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo of China put married life on hold to go for gold one last time.  They lived in dormitories, in separate rooms, and ate cafeteria food.  These olympians don’t get a cushy life, they have to eat certain foods, take care of themselves, and submit to a life of routine and very hard work.

Apolo, Shen and Zhao have all won gold medals.

We have some very, very hard times while living with RA.  There are some days that we can’t even get out of bed.  There are some days when the medications we take leave us vulnerable to sickness.  But we have to keep going with our lives, we have to make sure that our disease does not progress farther.  We have to keep battling our adversary.  Speed skater J.R. Celski thought he was out of the Olympic running after a fall on the ice caused him to severely cut his leg, narrowly missing a major artery that could have claimed his life.  This was two and a half months ago.  Celski is currently in Vancouver, already a bronze medal winner, and on track for more medals before the week is over.

It’s important for us RAers to know when to quit.  Knowing your limits will save you from injury, and can save you from agrrevating your RA, which can lead to flares.  Figure skater Nobunari Oda of Japan completely halted his performance in Vancouver when one of his skate’s laces snapped and began to unravel.  The stop cost Oda points, but it was a safety hazzard.  Had Oda continued he would have run the risk of severely injuring his foot and would therefore risk the rest of his skating career.

Michelle Kwan, arguably one of the best female figure skaters of all time, knew when to hang her skates up, too.  After failing to grab the gold in 2002, Kwan was eager to try again in the 2006 Turino games.  However, Kwan sustained an injury, and was unable to compete in the games.  Even though it was hard for her, Kwan knew it was better for her health to withdraw.

We aren’t so different from our Olympic heroes.  We both work very hard to achieve our goals, whether it’s a gold medal or living a normal life.  We make sacrifices (and big ones, at that).  We alter our lifestyles.  We don’t give up, but we are smart enough to know our limits.  Olympians give it everything they’ve got to get the gold, and Rheumatoid Arthritis patients give it everything they’ve got to battle the disease and to live a normal life.

I feel like I am doing something as amazing as Apolo, Mr. Flying Tomato, and all of my other Olympic idols: I don’t let this disease push me around.

Bottom line: it’s all too easy for us RAers to be sad. I know sacrificing things you love to do is hard.  I’ve been there.  I know that finding the time to properly take care of yourself (eating better, getting long baths to ease your joints, etc.) isn’t easy.  But we should be proud of the hard work and dedication we put into living a good, healthy life.  I’m proud to say I do and have done everything I possibly can to have a normal life, and you should be proud of ourselves, too.

I encourage you all to watch the rest of the Olympic games this week, they truly are inspirational to me.  And as always, stay healthy!

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Deann Baker
    Feb 24, 2010 @ 02:11:27

    Thank you for your awesome blog and making the name “sticky”. I put a link on my facebook too I like to keep people informed of good information and advocate for others.

    My daughter Dailee has had JRA since she was two. Because she has had it since she was very little she really doesn’t know any different and probably doest even know what it feels like to live with out some sort of pain or discomfort. Because of this s It takes a lot of pain/discomfort for her to complain. I can at times tell she doesn’t feel well but she really pushes herself and is pretty active for all she endures. I am amazed at her bright and outgoing bubbly attitude despite it all. I think she seems a lot like you except she is 10.

    Thank you for sharing!

    One appreciative mom



    • Cari Elliott
      Feb 25, 2010 @ 23:36:51

      Your daughter sounds like such a trooper! I’m glad she’s able to stay active. It sounds like you were able to catch the disease quickly, that’s very good.

      Thank you for the feedback and for posting the link! I appreciate it.


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