Get in the Game
By Jen Asmonga
My college roommate, Valerie, and I had been on a lot of crazy adventures in our first year of college, but now I was convinced that she had really lost her mind. We became friends when I was thirteen years old. We met at a summer camp for children who had chronic illnesses, became good friends, and decided to go to college together. Valerie has asthma and I have had rheumatoid arthritis since I was four. The thought that we should try out for the college rugby team was insane to me. I did not know much about the game, but I did know tackling was involved.
Against all odds, Valerie and I made the team. We went to all of the grueling practices and definitely got our fair share of bruises. Practice after practice, game after game, I fell in love with the sport. The women on my team were so much fun and so tough; they made me a little tougher, too. When it was all said and done, I played for two years. I look back at that time now as if it occurred to another person. When I played rugby, I was probably in the best shape that I had ever been in. My body was strong and I pushed what it could do to the limits. I did not always play on the starting team, I was not the best player, but I went out every week and did my best to help my team. When you have arthritis it can be easy to let the disease put limits on your life. What I learned from being a part of the rugby team is that it does not have to. You can take control of your arthritis. Get in the game, have fun, just play!
Accepting the idea that having arthritis has to keep us on the sidelines, now, that is insane.
Jen is now 31 years old and lives in Pittsburgh. She is the learning specialist at Shady Side Academy Junior School and loves being an aunt to her two wonderful nieces.