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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 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.