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Arthritis

Imagine that you are a world-class concert pianist at the peak of your career, someone who has spent years studying and practicing to develop your art. Your fingers respond instantly to your mental commands, flitting along the keyboard with grace and speed. Then one day you feel a stiffness that wasn’t there before. You go to a doctor, tests are done, and the diagnosis comes back: arthritis. Your fingers are destined to become wooden and crippled. From the heights of success and acclaim you will plunge to oblivion.

It happened to Byron Janis. Within a short time this concert pianist saw arthritis quickly spread to all his fingers, and the joints of nine of them fused. Some people would have never recovered from such a blow, but Janis decided to fight back. He kept his ailment a secret from all but his wife and two close friends. He worked long hours to change his technique. He learned how to use what strengths he had instead of concentrating on his weaknesses. He also used a regimen of medications, acupuncture, ultrasound, and even hypnosis to deal with the pain. His wife learned how to give him therapeutic massages to loosen his stiff joints. Through hard work and sheer determination, Janis was able to continue his career. He maintained a full concert schedule for 12 years without anyone suspecting. Finally, he told the world at a White House concert in 1985. These days, he is active in fund-raising for the Arthritis Foundation and still plays the piano. He credits faith, and hope, and will for his success and says, “I have arthritis, but it doesn’t have me.”

Bits and Pieces, August, 1989