I’m Sick!


For the past two weeks, I’ve thought about what my next blog article was going to be about and now it finally hit me……. health and wellness. I need to talk about my disease that I’ve been living most of my life. You see….. “I’m Sick!”  and it’s not something that I can get rid of within a few days. I have an incurable disease that I will be living with the rest of my life and will slowly get worse as I get older. Although it will not kill me, it has taken off many years of my life.

You see I have a genetic disease called seronegative rheumatoid arthritis pronounced “zero-negative”. What that means is that I have all the signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis but when I come to my laboratory test result, I test negative for the rheumatoid factor or the gene that they know causes rheumatoid arthritis. But my antibodies, white blood cell count, and inflammation are all very high for a 31-year-old female.

This is a genetic disease for my family, (I am 4th generation female on my mother side that has gotten this disease ). So no matter what weight I am, and I have been skinny, I will have it! Plus you try and jog and do cross-fit when you have damage joints and throbbing pain 24/7. And even somedays walking a short distance is a challenge. For other people whose family members show no signs and get it; your family can have it dormant in your genes and contract something that triggers. Or you have contracted a virus that triggers it. For the most part, science and medicine really don’t know what can exactly trigger rheumatoid arthritis in animals and humans.

There is a difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.  Well, osteoarthritis occurs with old age and is when your joints are rubbing up against each other because there is not much cartilage and fluid around the joints anymore and they have some wear and tear. So there’s not that much lube on the old gears anymore. Rheumatoid, is where you have all the cartilage and fluid but your immune system decided your joints are actually a foreign object and they must get rid of them. So your cells decided to pound on your joints all day long causing flu-like symptoms day in and day out, 24/7. And my symptoms include slight fever, swelling joints, tenderness, stiffness, and throbbing pain. Imagine having the flu that you can not get rid of and that’s me every day of my life. You wouldn’t move too, would yeah?

 Now I have multiple jointed rheumatoid arthritis which also affects my hips and spine. When you have arthritis in your spine you get what called ankylosing spondylitis. Since your vertebrae don’t  heal the way your other bones do, your spinal joints will fuse together over time if left untreated.

Now you’re probably thinking why don’t take some ibuprofen or aspirin and you feel better? Well, those drugs like ibuprofen, naproxen, and other pain medications only take the swelling and the pain down. Your immune system is still attacking even if you take those medications. Also, my pain and swelling are so bad that over the counter medications don’t work for me. And the medication they do have ( such as Humira and Enbrel) slows the progression down and what they do is weaken your immune system to practically nothing and that’s how they stop attacking. So now I got to watch out and not get sick which is hard.

The problem that I am dealing with though is that I got to stop brushing it off and realize how sick I am. I am not that well off and I have to stop ignoring my body. I’ve been brushing it off like it’s nothing like it’s a papercut or a cold, and thinking I can go through a normal eight hour day instead of treating it like a chronic disease that it is. It needs to be compared to diseases like MS and Parkinsons and not something that is minor. People think you can take a pill, be better, and work like everyone else. Like a diabetic taking their insulin and then going back to their business. People treat it like it’s having a paper cut instead of a bullet wound. They do not understand that it’s hard to live with it and your debilitated and can’t move around.

Because of that attitude, I ignored my symptoms. I can remember experiencing these symptoms when I was 12/13 years-old. Adults just thought I was lazy when I slept all day and did nothing, not the fact that I was experiencing signs of an auto-immune disease. I thought I can work like everyone else, I just had to toughen up and get used to moving around more. But I never did. Working 40 hours was draining all the energy I have out of me. I didn’t have enough energy to clean, go out, do hobbies, or sometimes even bathe myself. And that’s not normal.

I can not stop ignoring that I can not do everyday things that other people do. I can no longer work a regular 9-5 job or 40 hours a week. I have to take care myself. My disease is a full-time job and I have to make sure I have enough energy to do things like housework and enjoy the rest of my life.  So I have made the decision to quit my job and not work anymore. It’s sad and depressing. I mean I want to work, I always did, but I can no longer physically can. Not having that income will be tough on me and my fiance. But I think we will manage. For right now, I have to concentrate on what I can do in order to feel like a semi-normal human being almost every day.

Do take care of yourself.

Love you all,


In this Shoot*

Duster Cardigan and Top by LuLaRoe

High Waisted Jeans by Torrid

Slippers by Uggs


*for more information about ankylosing spondylitis and rheumatoid arthritis visit:

Spondylitis Association of America

This AS Life

Arthritis Foundation

Published by Valerie Pantalone

Artists living in the suburbs of Philadelphia on the New Jersey side of town. Graduated Rowan University College of Art and Design in photography. She's been photographing and painting for over a decade now.

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