I will never forget the most hurtful conversation I ever had with my father. In two minutes he managed to change the course of our entire relationship.
Before my RA, my father and I were two peas in a pod. We, each of us, had an overabundance of energy. We ran in the mornings, worked all day, and then I taught swim classes part-time at night, he taught karate. In the evenings, I’d head out dancing with my friends. He went home, walked the dog and went to bed. HA – at least I beat him after 9pm.
But everything changed when I started showing symptoms of RA. So now… instead of the two of us going running in the mornings, he goes by himself. I haven’t worked in a while, though I am trying to get back to it. There are so many things I’ve been forced to change about my lifestyle...the list goes on.
So one day I tried opening up to my father about my frustrations concerning my new limitations. He began telling me something about having the will to make things happen. I told him, “Who are you talking to? I’m the girl who went to college with nothing. I found scholarships, landed internships. I made everything happen that I could. There is not anything in my life that I did not have to break my back to acquire.
I went on to explain that “It is a different thing altogether when you are ROBBED of your physical abilities. You wouldn’t tell a cripple man he could will himself to walk if he just tried hard enough.”
He did not answer, so I pressed, “So tell me, how am I supposed to overcome this disease?”
I did not expect an answer by this part of the conversation; I was simply trying to make a point. And I certainly did not expect the answer he gave.
He said, “That has to come from you.”
I said, “Excuse me? Last time I looked, I did not possess a medical degree.”
He tried to speak carefully, but he knew it was too late, so he just said plainly, “When you get tough enough to deal with the pain, then you’ll know how to handle things.”
I was floored. I hung up and cried for days. Deal with the pain? Are you kidding me? I carried my 14 pound infant son around for 2 years while my shoulders and elbows and wrists SCREAMED at me. I lost 80 pounds of baby and steroid weight by going to the gym 4 times a week and then going home to soak in ice. I even went back to school and sat in 14 hour long classes to earn another degree by alternately popping steroids which made me a haggard mess and pain medicine which begged me to sleep. I earned a 4.0. I am one tough girl. Do NOT think this is a disease for wimps. No sir!
Our relationship has gone swiftly downhill since that call. He did call last year to tell us his new wife has breast cancer. I do feel badly, but having received no compassion from him, there was not much I could say. Until he asked, “How is she going to beat this?”
All I could think to say was, “Oh – that’s going to have to come from her.”
He hung up.