Art by Shruti Patel
Like many people my age, I woke up thinking we would get a few more days of spring break that fateful day in march. I remember going to a doctors appointment that day at seven am and telling my physical therapist how excited I was that I could do nothing all day. Little did I know I would be able to do nothing for months. At the time I had chronic pain in my jaw joints which I was sure that after a few months of physical therapy would go away. After roughly four months of Covid, while I continued seeing my physical therapist, I had improvement in movement of my jaw but I was still in constant pain. I saw my orthodontist who sent me to a surgeon who performed a surgery that did nothing, I saw my dentist, I saw my orthodontist again, and then finally I was sent to an oral surgeon in San Antonio who ordered an MRI to try and find out what the pain was from. After the MRI my doctor called my mom and told us that I had arthritis in both of my joints. I was then sent to a Rheumatologist who diagnosed me with Rheumatoid Arthritis in both of my jaw joints and also both of my knees. I remember getting this news and being so confused. Could people my age get arthritis? What caused it? What did that mean? My rheumatologist helped me answer these questions but I started spiraling. Mentally Covid had already plumited my mental health but now I was so scared of what my future would look like with this condition. My doctor explained that it is very possible for kids my age and younger to get arthritis and it comes in the form of an autoimmune disease. This condition also makes me high risk. I didn’t really know what to do, I had been living my life very carefully but also as someone who was under the impression that I would be totally fine if I got sick with the CoronaVirus. I started questioning myself and everything I had been doing during this lockdown. That was about four months ago when I got the diagnoses and I still question every action I make as a high risk person. As someone with a chronic illness, there is this feeling of not knowing when it will end which I feel is very similar to not knowing when the pandemic will be over. As I look back at this year of living during a pandemic and how insane it has been, I realize I’ve learned a lot. Not only have I discovered many things about myself but this year has taught me how important it is to adapt, to take a situation and try to roll with it. WIth discovering my diagnosis I started doing my research, reaching out to people with my same condition, and working with my doctors to try and find a solution. As I look ahead I start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am finally on medication for my condition, I have an appointment for the vaccine in a few days, and for the first time in a year I also have hope.