Hope for Arthritis Sufferers
“ARTHRITIS is not a major cause of mortality like heart disease or cancer,” says Dr. Fatima Mili, “but it has a great impact on the quality of life.” Arthritis can affect all aspects of a person’s life. Just what are some of the problems confronting those suffering with arthritis? Is it possible to cope?
Katia,* aged 28, from Italy, says: “Since being diagnosed with arthritis at the age of 20, my whole life has changed. I’ve had to quit my job and give up my career in the full-time ministry because of the pain.” Pain is a universal problem among arthritis sufferers. Alan, aged 63, from England, says: “You always have pain somewhere in your body, though it may be moderate.” Fatigue is another challenge. “Even if you could put up with the pain and swelling,” says Sarah, aged 21, “the tiredness is unbearable.”
According to 61-year-old Setsuko, of Japan, struggling each day with chronic pain can also “wear you out emotionally and mentally.” Why, simply trying to grip a pencil or the telephone can be a challenge! Kazumi, aged 47, laments: “Even ordinary things that a child can do have become impossible for me.” Sixty-year-old Janice, who can no longer spend much time on her feet, says: “It’s discouraging because I can’t do what I used to.”
Such limitations can cause frustration and negative feelings about oneself. Gaku, aged 27, is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and says: “Not being able to share fully in the evangelizing work or fulfill congregation assignments makes me feel that as a person I have no value whatsoever.” Francesca, who has battled with arthritis since the age of two, speaks of “being sucked deeper and deeper into a whirlpool of despair.” Such despair can have adverse spiritual effects. Joyce, a Witness from South Africa, admits that she began isolating herself from Christian meetings. “I just could not face seeing anybody,” she explains.
A sufferer may also have much anxiety regarding the future—fear of becoming immobile and dependent on others, fear of being left without a care giver, fear of falling and breaking bones, fear of not being able to provide for one’s family. Yoko, aged 52, admits: “When I’d see deformities occurring, I’d become fearful that they would increase.”
Family members too may suffer emotional pain, being confronted every day with the suffering of their loved one. Some couples may even experience severe marital strain. A woman in England, named Denise, says: “After 15 years of marriage, my husband announced, ‘I can’t put up with your arthritis anymore!’ He left me and our 5-year-old daughter.”
Arthritis thus presents huge challenges both to sufferers and their families. Nevertheless, many are successfully coping! Let us take a look at how some are doing so.
Respecting Your Limitations
Getting proper rest is essential if you are an arthritis sufferer; it can minimize fatigue. This does not mean, though, that you should drop out of life. Timothy explains: “You need to keep active so as not to let arthritis take you over mentally because if it does, you’ll just sit there and feel the pain.” Rheumatologist William Ginsburg of the Mayo Clinic observes: “There’s a fine line between doing too much and too little. Sometimes people have to be reminded to slow down and listen to their disease.”
This may entail changing the way you view your limitations. Daphne, from South Africa, relates: “I’ve had to be realistic and know that my ability to do certain things has not gone away; I just had to do them in a much slower manner. Rather than become anxious or frustrated, I simply do a little at a time.”
It is also a good idea to become acquainted with various assistive devices that might be available, perhaps discussing these with your doctor or physical therapist. Keiko relates: “We’ve installed a stair lift. Turning knobs hurt my wrists, so we changed them. Now I can open all the doors by pushing with my head. We installed lever-type handles on all the water taps in the house so that I could at least do some housework.” Another arthritis sufferer named Gail says: “My car and house keys are attached to a long handle, making it easier for me to turn them. My comb and brush are on long extensions and can be adjusted to different angles for combing and brushing.”
Family Support—“A Tower of Strength”
Carla, from Brazil, says: “My husband’s support has been crucial. The fact that he went with me on my visits to the doctor gave me courage. We discovered together how the disease affects my body, what its symptoms are, and what treatment would be necessary. I felt better because he could understand what I was going through.” Yes, husbands or wives who accept the limitations of their mates and who are willing to become educated regarding their condition can be an enormous source of strength and support.
Bette, for example, took on cleaning jobs when her husband’s arthritis curtailed his construction work. Kazumi’s husband not only nursed her but also did the housework that she could not do. Further, he trained their children to do what they could to help out. Says Kazumi: “My husband has been a tower of strength. Without his help I would be in a far worse state.”
A woman named Carol, from Australia, offers this caution: “Be careful not to crowd a schedule with too much activity. Feelings of inadequacy easily creep in on me if I cannot keep up with the family.” Rendered with true understanding and consideration, family support can be a tower of strength for sufferers.
Katia says: “When a person suffers from an illness like this, she is convinced that no one knows what she is going through. This makes it important to turn to Jehovah God, knowing that he really understands our physical and emotional condition. (Psalm 31:7) Having a good relationship with him has given me the peace of mind to live almost serenely with my illness.” The Bible appropriately calls Jehovah “the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation.”—2 Corinthians 1:3, 4.
Prayer can thus be a powerful source of comfort to someone suffering chronic pain. Kazumi relates: “During the long nights when I cannot sleep because of the pain, I have tearfully poured out my heart to Jehovah, asking him for strength to endure the pain and for wisdom to face all my difficulties. Jehovah has definitely answered me.” Francesca has likewise experienced God’s loving support. She says: “I’ve seen the fulfillment of the words at Philippians 4:13: ‘For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me.’”
Oftentimes, Jehovah God provides support through the Christian congregation. Gail, for example, tells of the help she received from her spiritual brothers and sisters in the local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Their love helped me not to become depressed,” says Gail. In a similar vein, when Keiko was asked, “Is there anything you can think of that has been good in your life?,” she replied: “Yes, all the love and sympathy I get from everyone in the congregation!”
In congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses, overseers take the lead in rendering such support. Setsuko says: “I can’t describe how great the effect is on a person fighting illness when the elders listen and give comfort.” However, as an arthritis sufferer named Daniel reminds us, “our spiritual brothers and sisters can only help if we let them.” It is therefore important that sufferers stay in contact with fellow Christians, doing their very best to attend congregation meetings. (Hebrews 10:24, 25) There they can receive the spiritual encouragement needed to endure.
Suffering Will End
Arthritis sufferers are grateful to the medical profession for the advances that have been made thus far. However, even the best treatments fall far short of being a real cure. In the long run, sufferers can find their greatest comfort in embracing God’s promises of a new world.* (Isaiah 33:24; Revelation 21:3, 4) In that world ‘the lame one will leap up as a stag does.’ (Isaiah 35:6) Arthritis and all the other diseases afflicting mankind will be gone forever! Peter, a victim of spinal arthritis, thus says: “I can see a light at the end of this dark tunnel I’m traveling through.” A Christian woman named Giuliana likewise says: “I think of each day that passes as a battle won, one day less to endure before the end comes!” Yes, the time when there will be not only the end of arthritis but also the end of all suffering has drawn near!
Some of the names have been changed.
If you would like one of Jehovah’s Witnesses to visit you to explain the Bible’s promises, contact the local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses or write to the publishers of this magazine.
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There are many devices that help sufferers lead productive lives
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Loving support can be found at Christian meetings