May’s Arthritis Awareness Month covers more than 100 different types of arthritis. October 12 is World Arthritis Day. May 10 is World Lupus Day. May 12 is Fibromyalgia Awareness Day. The first Saturday after May 1 is World Ankylosing Spondylitis Day. There has been no day for rheumatoid arthritis.
The Rheumatoid Patient Foundation (RPF) has designated February 2 to be Rheumatoid Awareness Day. Earlier this week, I spoke to Kelly Young (also known as the RA Warrior), founder of RPF about this first day dedicated to awareness about rheumatoid disease. The RPF is also advocating for a change of name from RA to Rheumatoid Disease.
The RPF set about creating an awareness day for RA because, Kelly said, "it's important to help the public understand that these diseases are serious illnesses which require lifelong medical treatment and create a lot of complex medical issues in a similar way that diabetes and lupus do." As well, an awareness day for RA will help "lessen the confusion about these diseases and the arthritis that typically comes with aging."
The goal of Rheumatoid Awareness Day is primarily to raise awareness. "If we raise awareness, we'll be able to raise research dollars, help get the types of accommodations, treatment, medical coverage and eventually increase the rate of early diagnosis." Kelly said. She pointed out that "increasing awareness will eventually help improve the lives of patients."
Why February 2?
When discussions first took place about selecting a day, the RPF specifically chose February because of the link with Heart Month in the US. "We wanted to acknowledge the systemic symptoms of Rheumatoid Disease. There have been a lot of recent discoveries of how the disease affects the cardiovascular system," Kelly explained.
There are also a number of analogies between RA and February 2. This data is what's called a Cross-Quarter day – the midpoint between a solstice and an equinox. It is also Groundhog Day in North America, where after six weeks of winter, the groundhog comes out to see its shadow, prognosticating whether there will be another six weeks of winter. This day is a turning point in many ways and the RPF hopes that the awareness day will prove to be a turning point for RA, as well. The connection to six weeks also symbolizes the relatively short window available for diagnosis of RA for ideal results in treatment.
The RPF has also released a ribbon for Rheumatoid Awareness Day.
"We wanted something distinct for people with rheumatoid diseases," Kelly said. "We wanted to stay with the purple and blue theme already used for arthritis and lupus," but the RPF wanted to add something more. Kelly explains that "two years ago, a poll on RA Warrior showed that a lot of people wanted yellow or gold to indicate hope and optimism." The RPF therefore chose indigo, a distinct version of blue and added gold along the edges to symbolize the hope for a cure.