Nobody would argue that we need more rheumatoid arthritis awareness. I admit that I didn’t know much at all about RA until I was being diagnosed with it. Why should anybody know much about RA until it touches someone in your life, family, friends, or public figure? No real reason unless we’re in medicine.
If you read forums or blogs discussing RA, you will certainly have come across posts which focus on “what not to say….” to patients, or which focus on what bugs us, as a community, the most when others might say it during a social interaction. I read these posts and can sympathize with those who are frustrated, but honestly I have not encountered the same level of annoyance or anger which is often expressed.
Here are a couple hypothetical scenarios to contemplate:
You and a friend are in your early 20’s. You’ve met for coffee and are chitchatting about life - boys, jobs, heatlh.
You: Ya know, sometimes life just sucks. I was just diagnosed with arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis. Everything seems to hurt, a lot, and I just hope it gets better.
Friend: Are you sure? Don’t old people get arthritis. Maybe it’s just that disease they talk about in those commercials in TV. Maybe you have fibromyalgia. You could take whatever-that-is for the pain.
You: No, I’m sure. And not just old people get arthritis. You’re thinking of osteoarthritis which is definitely more common, and kinda an “old person’s” disease. At least that’s what it seems like. My arthritis is RA which anybody can get at any age.
Friend: Oh, that’s the disease that could make your piano playing crumble if you believe the commercials. Good thing you’re not a piano player.
You, chuckling: I guess that’s something. Hey, maybe I’ll start golfing like a pro since I’ll be taking the same drug as that famous guy even though he doesn’t have RA.
You are speaking with a friend who has known you for quite awhile but whom you haven’t seen in years. The conversation comes around to health.
Friend: So how’s your health doing? Seems my kids keep bringing home every cold and flu which travels through the school. Someone in our house is sick practically all the time.
You: Yeah, that sounds like a tough situation. I’ve been trying to avoid getting colds or the flu since I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis last year. If I catch a cold, I won’t be able to take my medicine like I’m supposed to. Then my joints start to hurt really bad.
Friend: My grandmother has arthritis. She has joint pain almost all the time and she has had both her hips replaced.
[Your thoughts interrupt: Geez. She doesn’t have a clue. I can’t stand it when others just assume that I’ve got regular ‘arthritis.’ Lots of old people have arthritis but that’s nothing like what I have. This has got to be one of my pet peeves, osteoarthritis is nothing like RA!]