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We’re dedicated to sharing the perspectives of people affected by chronic inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis (RA). That’s why we created Arthritis.com, a place where people living with a RA can find inspiration, lifestyle advice, tools, and disease information. Following is an article from Arthritis.com contributor Angela Lundberg who is living with RA.

Photography has been a passion of mine ever since my first photography class. Feeling the weight and heft of a “real” camera in my hands for the first time -- a manual 35mm SLR (single lens reflex) -- was exciting, I remember. I couldn’t wait to shoot rolls of film and then watch in the darkroom as blank white sheets of paper magically transformed into black and white images that I had created. I was entranced and inspired by the entire process, and I still am today.

Although I still love film, today, I mostly shoot photos using a digital SLR camera.

That’s why I chose to include my old, manual 35mm camera in one of the images for this post. It’s the first camera that sparked my passion for photography.

Also included are a few photographs that I took for a self-portrait assignment for a photography class in college. Being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) college significantly affected my entire collegiate experience. Those undergraduate years were a time of great physical and emotional pain, as my rheumatologist and I struggled to find a disease management plan that worked well for me. My hands constantly hurt, fingers were unbendable, and swollen wrists screamed out in pain. Walking was almost unbearable.

A year before the self-portrait was taken, I had surgery on my right wrist. Unfortunately, by the time I had the surgery, the joint was permanently damaged with all of its cartilage eaten away by RA inflammation.

Despite all of the pain I suffered from RA during college, I didn’t let RA stop me from picking up my camera and continuing to follow my passion for creating art through this medium I had grown to love. Today, I’m still picking up my camera. Through good days and flare-ups, I refuse to let the joint pain and swelling of RA make me put it down.

I won’t put my camera down because photography inspires and empowers me even when RA makes me feel the exact opposite so much of the time. My camera is a link to the young, innocent, healthy person I once was before I got RA; I feel it’s important to hold onto some part of me from that time, for some reason. My camera is also a lifeline to the hope and beauty and connection with others I want for today and for my future.

Whether it’s photography or another hobby, I encourage you to find something that inspires you.

Original photograph provided by Angela Lundberg.