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The moment the diagnosis was delivered, my tears rolled down uncontrollably. The multiple hospital visits, a surgery, the myriad of tests done for my unexplained intense joint and body pain added up to the stress and emotional wreck.
As I was hoping for it to be a short term pain which will be relieved with some shots and I am good to go the next moment, the doctor confirmed that I have Rheumatoid Arthritis. As a doctor myself, I know how debilitating it can be and the thought of controlling it with multiple toxic drugs for a lifetime just made me even more devastated.
As a thrill and adventure lover, I saw my dreams being shattered and started overthinking of everything ahead of me. I was only 26 years old, and I had the dream of a typical girl if not more. I wanted to excel in my career as a specialist, go travel high and low and get married with beautiful husband and kids. Probably it is my immaturity, probably it is the medical knowledge that was ingrained in me, I saw all of this as impossible to achieve as my disease was rather aggressive and needed high dosages of medicine to control. Every joint in my body ached, and the 2 most important joints which I really value now, my knees, are the ones affected most whereby I needed help to walk and do my daily chores.
Being stubborn and enthusiastically misplaced, despite the RA flare and having 3 swollen joints in constant pain, I decided that I will persist and finish my housemanship and indeed I did. However, the consequences were grave whereby my disease did not get into control and my knee joints got worse, I started hearing cracks in my knees and that was the moment I knew I had to do something.
I was told that I will need a knee replacement but due to my relatively young age, the doctors were hesitant and gave me the impression that I should somehow live with it and hope the pain will go off with meds and exercise. However, exercises only made it worse, the more I exercised, the more swollen it got. I was trying so much to control everything that eventually I surrendered. All this while, despite praying, I realised I never once did surrendered to God and was trying to be in control of everything, the medicines I had to take, the surgery I had to do, the exercises, I questioned everything and only agreed to go on it if I am convinced after thorough reading. The moment I got tired and fully surrendered to Him, miraculous paths begin to open. I became less fearful and was more at ease and decided to go with the flow even if it means putting my job on the line. As a person who rarely takes off or medical leave, I have learnt to let go and took a long leave, went off on a voyage of alternative treatment and came across Ayurveda.
That’s when I came to learn about healing internally. It is rather a beautiful healing process. Our body is inherently designed to heal itself if only we listened to it. It has a right over us and it has its own limitation and we are responsible to not overuse it. The little pain here and there are not something to put off, but are little screams from your body telling you to take a break. When it does, I urge you, please listen. For instance, a simple headache may seem like something trivial to put off because of other seemingly important tasks and thus gets ignored. But, if only we heed to its signal and lay down for a 10mins power nap, the headache will vanish and our body would be thankful and last for another few hours. Following this simple rule of listening to the body, it will not then be a miracle that we live a long healthy life.
I am currently in the midst of healing, however, it has not been an easy task with people around you who do not understand and you yourself doubting the process. I am guilty of abusing my knees due to circumstances and people surrounding me at that point in time, but I have learned to slow down and pay heed to my ever so loyal companion, my body. I have learned to say no more often and put my health as my utmost priority now. Ever since my diagnosis, it has been a roller coaster ride. I have been on and off the wheelchair and been in and out of hospital countless times. But I know that should not be stopping me. I had to put everything I have learned at the back of my mind and started surrendering to the process and of course to God, and am convinced that this can be healed with tapering down my medications and eventually be off it. I am eagerly waiting for my dreams to be fulfilled with having my health back on track.
To the readers out there, no matter which stage of life you are right now, healthy or not, always remember, there is always a solution for every problem and there is healing for every disease except death. Do not give up and learn to let go. May God Bless us with His wondrous bounties and may we all be blessed with the wisdom of listening and paying attention to our wonderful companion, the body, the temple we all live in.
Dr Fatimah Liyaqat Ali
An Enthusiast, a Lover of Life