It’s Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness Month.
Only I prefer to call it Rheumatoid Disease. ‘Arthritis’ simply means inflammation of the joints. There are over 70 different types of ‘arthritis’.
RD/RA is something else. It can be severe, crippling and extremely debilitating.
It’s a whole lot more than joint pain.
So what else is it?
Well, as well as the chronic pain and joint deformities, there are the fevers, the brain fog, the systemic autoimmune response that feels like a low grade flu, the continual fatigue …
and then there’s the social stigma: people telling you it’s ‘just a bit of arthritis like I have in my finger’, when in actual fact it feels like somebody’s smashed your hand with a hammer; it’s the poverty, the unemployment, the accusations of laziness, the pushing through regardless, the small wins and the big disappointments.
Oh, and did I mention all the clueless idiots who insist of giving unsolicited dietary and medical advice? As if, after all these years, I haven’t tried EVERYTHING?
Go on, infantilise next. Because you’re well, and I’m sick – so it must be my fault somehow.
And the risk to the heart, lungs and other organs?
Yeah, ‘just a bit of arthritis, like my Grandma has’! If only!
Now I’m at at age where I’m also getting a bit of ‘what grandma has’ – age and wear-and-tear-related Osteoarthritis. Make no mistake, OA’s no picnic either, but the two diseases can’t be compared. One’s a sore knee, the other’s a truck falling on it.
It’s the opiates just to get out of bed, the anti inflammatory drugs, the weekly injections, the steroid pills, the antidepressants (because it IS depressing), the cupboard full of creams and lotions and splints and bandages.
And it’s the osteoporosis and crumbling teeth from long term steroid use.
There are the rheumatologist appointments, the pharmacist whose cooperation is crucial, the GP who actually listens. All legends.
I’m in Year 39 now of ‘Living with Arthur’, and I’m still walking – which is miraculous.
For me, this week, what it means is a painful steroid injection at the base of my thumb to address the intense pain that’s been so persistent these past few months I’ve been wearing a splint and resting my hand.
Hopefully the shot will work so I can get back to doing what I love doing: writing and playing music.
And doing what I don’t so much like: mopping my dirty floors!
‘Living with Arthur’ is, quite frankly, shitful.
It’s depressing, painful, and unrelenting.
It steals dreams, thwarts ambitions, and makes every day a struggle.
Good days are gold, because the bad days are the usual.
So next time you see someone with hands like in the picture below, please don’t minimise what it means.
Rheumatoid Disease is a serious, incurable, and immensely painful condition, and those of us who live with it want you to know that it is far from just ‘a bit of arthritis’. It’s life destroying, crippling, and hurts like hell.
The only thing that hurts more? Other people’s ignorance.