As you have probably determined by now, I love reading the perspectives of my family and loved ones. When my best friend, Ashanti, offered to write a guest post for me, I jumped at the chance. Here's her take on my RA. I love you Shanty! (I will caution, there's some language in this post.)
“I’m not dying of cancer, so I try to remember that often” is one of the things Kat texts me. She’s one of, if not the bravest person I know.
Kat’s been my friend since freshman year of high school, even though she didn’t know it at the time. I had long curly purple and blue hair and she claims I scared the bejeezus out of her when, thinking to myself, she looks weird like me, maybe we’d get along, I plopped myself down in front of her on the gym floor comparing converses and nine inch nail albums. I consider us close; like most girls we’ve had times where we wouldn’t speak to each other, but we still always came together in then.
Honestly, if most of my friends said, at least I don’t have cancer, I think I’d slap them. That’s because like opinions and assholes, every body’s got problems, and they are mostly full of shit. Right now, my biggest problem is keeping my family afloat. Because of a long confluence of circumstance I’d rather not delve into, I’m in a position where for this month, I’m keeping a roof over my dad, stepmom and brother’s head (and my own). Next month is a little less shaky, but I don’t doubt I won’t have to do it again. It’s a good deal of pressure for a twenty-two year old making just a smidge above minimum wage, but still well below the poverty line for where I live. I don’t think I’ve been dealt a poor hand; its just life. Generally speaking, most of my friends have it easier.
By all normal reckoning, her problems are worse. Typically, I’d like to say that pain is pain and can’t be compared. People experience suffering against their own baseline, and if their tolerance is low, a minor embarrassment is the end of the world. So, first of all, I don’t think any of my friends would have cancer as a frame of reference, but if it was in their periphery and they said that, I’d have a pretty low tolerance for it. Because they have no idea what it means. I have no idea what it means.
She doesn’t have a death sentence, and yet it was still really hard to hear. Rheumatoid Arthritis. How does that happen? I mean, she tells me about her doctor’s visits (I’ve accompanied her to a few), and my first thought is never at least its not cancer. She pulled that out. I’m going through a bit of our shared history because I think she was dealt a raw hand to begin with. And high school, let’s be honest, wasn’t pretty for either of us. We were both depressed, weird, anxious. Thing is, it was usually beyond her control; mine was created, to her bad things happened. While I still piss and moan, because I’ve encountered few rare crises in my life, she bears it.
Things are hard for her, and they always will be, but after the diagnosis, after figuring out what was going on, everything changed. Its like she decided she wasn’t going to put up with being unhappy. She wasn’t going to take RA’s shit. She’s working on not tolerating her doctor and nurses when they tell her in dressed-up terms, "I don’t know". Or even worse, "I don’t care." For this, I admire her greatly. She doesn’t believe it, but she will accomplish so much in her life.
So what I can do, as the friend? Drive her to her appointments when I can, and gossip and treat her like she’s normal. Because, guess what? She is. She is still Kat. She still has just as much smarts as when she would color code her notes in her minuscule handwriting for AP classes. She has even more strength now than she did before. She’s just as funny, caring and Daft Punk obsessed as always, and a diagnosis cannot take that away.