By David Biundo
In Greek mythology, King Sisyphus is punished by the gods because of his trickery and his belief that he was wiser than Zeus. This angered the gods and thus they came up with a unique punishment for him in the afterlife. His punishment was to take a very large boulder and roll it up a hill. Before he could reach the top of the hill, it became so overwhelming that the boulder would roll back down the hill and King Sisyphus would have to start the process all over again. Repeating this task for eternity was his punishment.
As you read this you know that I will relate this some way to one’s battle with Rheumatoid Disease. The RAD patient, like many other types of patients, faces many road-blocks and obstacles in the management of their disease. I liken this journey to Sisyphus’s endless journey up and back down that hill.
The first part of that journey is knowing and understanding what is going on with your body. You hurt, you are stiff, and you do not know what is happening. You start rolling that stone up the hill by consulting doctors, getting varying diagnoses, and thinking you may be on the right track. As you roll that stone up the hill, you find out that nothing has changed. You still hurt, your medicine isn’t working, and you are no better off than you were before. The stone has rolled back down the hill and you are back at the beginning wondering which direction to go next.
Not wanting to give in, you begin to roll the stone back up the hill. More doctors, more tests looking for answers. If you are fortunate, you find a doctor or rheumatologist that will listen and believe you when you talk about your symptoms. You may finally get a diagnosis of Rheumatoid Disease. The stone is now going uphill again and you feel like finally you know what is happening. During these times the stone can roll back down the hill because treatments don’t work. Test results don’t verify the symptoms that you are experiencing so again the stone comes crashing back down the hill.
You begin to roll the stone up the hill again when you take the medications that are prescribed. As you educate yourself, you begin to see that many of these drugs are cancer drugs. Many have potential side effects which make you wonder why you would ever take them. When some of those side effects occur and you need to stop treatment, your disease symptoms come roaring back. The stone comes rolling back down the hill.
If you are one of the unlucky ones and your disease does not respond to medication, you need to begin to deal with what can be the devastating progression of the disease. Here are just a few of the consequences of uncontrolled RAD: destruction of joints to the point where you cannot walk or get yourself dressed, swelling in your veins and other cardiovascular complications, neurological complications if your RAD presents itself in your spine and an immune system that is so dysfunctional that the possibility of serious infection constantly weighs on your mind.
I won’t even begin to list the impact that uncontrolled RAD has on your personal, professional and family life. It is dramatic and life changing whether you want it to be or not. In each of these instances you are pushing that boulder up the hill, only for it to come crashing back down due to some other unforeseen circumstance.
I and other RAD patients are rolling that RAD stone up the hill every day. Some days are better than others and we are most thankful for those. As I close, I cannot do without thanking my wife, daughters, mother in-law, sister, aunt, coworkers at my store and my online community of friends from Facebook and Twitter for all of their care and support. Without this group of people the stone would be much heavier.
Click here to listen to “I’m gonna take the stone of Sisyphus. I’m gonna roll it back to you.” by artist Dawayne Bailey from Chicago’s album “Stone of Sisyphus.”