(Image courtesy of Steve Alexander's Flickr Page- Creative Commons License)
I was hard hit by news of Glenn Frey’s death from complications of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), ulcerative colitis, and pneumonia.
Hotel California by The Eagles is one of my favorite songs. It’s spooky, eerie, and so memorable that once heard, it never quite leaves your head. Frey leaves something beautiful behind, something that will keep his memory alive for decades to come.
But my reaction isn’t just the sadness of a fan.
Frey’s death also comes very close to the first anniversary of losing Brad Carlson, my friend and colleague, also from complications of RA. It doubles the grief.
As someone who lives with RA, receiving a reminder that this disease can be extremely serious is never easy. This disease can take so much, and knowing that it can also take years off your life, can take the people you care about, is a difficult thing to accept.
Many doctors call RA a medical emergency, yet there is so little public awareness of the seriousness of this disease. It’s an uncomfortable fact that the amount of awareness has an impact on how much funding a particular disease receives.
With the advent of biologic medications in the last 15 years, we have seen what research can do. These medications have changed the field of rheumatology, as well as the lives of people who live with RA and other types of autoimmune arthritis. Remission is now something that actually happens, and many live much better lives than ever before. Not nearly enough of us, but it gives us hope of what is possible.
Can you imagine what would happen if more money were available for research? Could we find a cure?
The death of a celebrity from complications of RA may create a deeper understanding of this illness. Maybe Glenn Frey’s legacy will be more than the beautiful music he and his bandmates created. Maybe his legacy will include awareness and understanding about a difficult disease, and the attention to funding and research that can change the lives of people who have RA.