Remembering on Memorial Day

There was a lovely, fierce, white-haired woman who lived in the community where I edited a newspaper in the late 90s and for a little more than half of the 2000s. Evie was in her 80s, but she was sharper than most 40-year-olds I knew. She was a senior advocate, working tirelessly for the rights of elderly people. She decried those who would abuse and exploit the elderly, laid shame on the Bush Administration for its royal balls-up of Medicare Plan D and reminded readers of all ages that elders have an active voice in their communities and indeed, a great deal of wisdom to pass on, should anyone take the time to listen.

She wrote a weekly column about senior issues. Believe me when I say she was a tigress, as small and immaculately dressed and civilized as she was.

Evie never let a holiday pass without a written observation. In 2006, as the war in Iraq was about to surge, she wrote her Memorial Day column, musing about how most Americans seemed to be more interested in a three-day weekend and going out to play than in the real meaning of the holiday: Honoring our war dead.

“That there are American soldiers dying the war against terror on a daily basis is reason enough for us to spend the day in honoring and remembering those who have made the ultimate sacrifice,” she wrote.

She stated that she’d like to see the old tradition of wearing a red poppy on Memorial Day return. It originated, she wrote, with “a woman by the name of Moina Michael who, in 1918, wrote a poem with the words, ‘We cherish too, the Poppy Red / that grows on fields where valor led, / it seems to signal to the skies / that blood of heroes never dies.’”

Evie believed that Memorial Day should also honor veterans who are still living, but who spend their days enduring physical or mental pain and disability as a result of injuries received on the battlefield.

She was close to this issue. She had personal experience with it. Her only son was one of the many Viet Nam vets who fell ill following the war from his exposure to Agent Orange. He contracted non-Hodgkins lymphoma and severe and chronic respiratory disease.

“He is and will remain a 100-percent disabled veteran for what remains of his life,” she wrote. “It took more than 20 years before symptoms of his disability appeared, as many other veterans of that war have found who were also exposed to that deadly chemical.”

She visited him at his home once a week, and in spite of her age, gave it a thorough cleaning and made dinner — because he couldn’t.

As she did every year until she passed away in 2010, Evie flew the American flag in front of her house to honor America’s veterans, both living and dead.

“However, there’s one nagging question which may never have an answer,” she wrote. “Will all those soldiers who did not die on the battlefield, but nevertheless will die premature deaths because of war injuries, ever see their names on the Memorial Wall in Washington, DC? They, too, are giving their lives for their country. It’s just taking them longer to die.”

In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

– John McCrae (1915)

We Shall Keep the Faith
Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet – to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.

We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.

And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.

–Moina Michael (1918)

The above was excerpted and updated from a post I wrote for my other (and now defunct) life-and-politics blog, Blue Wren.


Predicting the unpredictable

Heh. Just when I think I’ve got my rheuma-dragon’s modus operandi down, he flibbers his tongue at me and changes it.

I’ve been checking the barometer whenever my hands start to hurt. Most of the time, the pain coincides with a fall in atmospheric pressure (most often associated with a low pressure area moving in over the state). Dark clouds and rain generally accompany a low, but this is California, so actual wet weather is rare. Occasionally, though, I flare as the barometer rises. Here, that always means clear, dry skies.

My conclusion? My rheuma-dragon gets snarly and starts biting at my joints whenever the barometer changes, though it happens more often with a fall.

Today I’m experiencing a particularly rotten flare in the knuckles of the first two fingers of my right hand. They’re swollen and hot. I got online and checked the barometric pressure for my area, expecting to see a fall or at least, a change. There’s a certain amount of satisfaction in knowing I can attribute the pain to something.

So you can imagine my surprise when I saw that the barometric pressure was steady, neither rising nor falling. It has stayed that way all day.

I can almost hear my tricksy old dragon sniggering at me. That’s what I get, though, for trying to squash him into a neat, predictable box.

I should know better. There has never, from the beginning 24 years ago, been anything I could point to as a positive trigger for an RA flare. Not any particular food, weather or activity.

It was cold and rainy in Northern Germany, where I lived when I first had symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and where I was eventually diagnosed. I flared on wet days, but I flared when the weather was dry, too. I flared in all seasons, at all temperatures, or I didn’t. There was no rhyme or reason. When people (usually my parents or friends back in the States) asked if I thought I’d feel better living in a dryer climate, I said I doubted it, because the weather sure didn’t seem to make any difference.

The way RA affects me isn’t necessarily the way it will affect you. I can eat tomatoes without bringing on a flare, but maybe you can’t eat those or any other vegetable or root from the nightshade family. I might flare after I exert myself, but it also happens when I’m resting. I’ve felt terrific when I’ve been under a great deal of stress and felt awful when I was carefree—and vice versa. There has rarely been any warning of an oncoming flare. I never know if the next one will be mild or a killer. Hot baths, heat packs and paraffin baths are soothing on painful joints to me; ice packs are agonizing. Simply unbearable. For you, it might be the reverse. RA drugs that relieve your symptoms may not relieve mine, and you might have been diagnosed as a four-year-old while I wasn’t until I was 31. My joints might be gnarled, disfigured and stiff; I might have had my wrist fused or a knee replaced. You, on the other hand, might have had RA as long as I have but with little or no joint damage. It’s a maddening disease.

And in the end, it’s simply unpredictable.

Why do they think we’re wimps?

I was browsing around the Internet this morning and happened upon, as we do, a series of CNN Health webpages about rheumatoid arthritis.

Now, I consider myself fairly well informed about RA. I’ve read and read and read about this disease, everything from what it is to how it can damage the joints, soft tissues and organs. Still, I keep reading. I might find something new and hopeful.

As I clicked through the various sub-heads on the page about different aspects of RA, I saw one that asked, “Is Your Pain Threshold Low?” Huh? I clicked. The headline on the new page: “Are People with RA More Sensitive to Pain?”

They can’t be serious, I thought, my hackles rising. If anything, those of us who cope with RA pain and disability every single day have very high pain thresholds. We have to handle pain well or we’d never be able to get anything done. Surely, I thought, they’re going to acknowledge that in this article, so don’t jump the gun. Just read it.

So I did.

I wish I hadn’t. Because now I’m angry and frustrated. What the article said, in essence, is that people with RA have very low pain thresholds because of stress, lack of sleep and (oh, what a word!) catastrophizing.

Now THIS is a catastrophe.

Now, I can’t argue too hard against the stress and sleeplessness that go along with serious chronic pain. They’re both real. Both can make rheuma pain worse. The article even acknowledges (without going into any detail) the vicious loop that can occur with RA pain: You hurt, which causes stress, which make your muscles tighten up, which causes more pain and stress, which brings on sleepleness, which causes even more pain, stress, sleeplessness… and so on. In this case, any help we can get to lower stress and sleep better is precious.

But… but… catastrophizing?

The article defines the word thusly: [It’s] “a word used to describe a particular response to pain: feeling pessimistic and helpless, resulting in an even greater sensation of pain.” Honestly, I think that everyone, RA or no RA, does this at one time or another, usually briefly. Feeling blue and pessimistic goes hand in hand with any painful injury or illness, particularly injuries or illnesses that cannot be healed or cured. In such circumstances, anyone would “catastrophize.”

The article goes on to state that “[p]eople who catastrophize have a tougher time coping with pain and are more sensitive to pain than others. Studies involving people with RA have found that those who catastrophize experience greater disease activity and inflammation. Why? One study found that, when exposed to painful stimuli, people who tend to catastrophize experienced a greater boost in levels of interleukin-6, the inflammatory molecule that can increase pain.”

Okay. So science proves that stress can cause a rise in the level of inflammatory molecules in the bloodstream, and that this rise can increase pain, presumably because it increases inflammation.

And that singles out RA patients, how? It proves that they have lower pain thresholds, how?

It doesn’t prove the premise of the headline, “Are People with RA More Sensitive to Pain?” (which implies that we are, because why would anyone ask that question in the first place?).  Increased inflammation can cause more pain regardless of its cause. For example, if I sprain my ankle—the sprain being caused by injured ligaments that, because of the injury, become inflamed and thus, painful—and then I put my full weight on that sprained ankle accidentally and irritate it further, I’m going to suffer increased pain. If I’m stressed because now I can’t get to work in time for a presentation to the boss and clients I was scheduled to give, then naturally, the pain is going to feel worse, since stress causes a further release of interleukin-6 into my bloodstream. And if the pain in my ankle keeps me awake all that night, and I have to stay home from work again the next day and get even more stressed out, then… well, you get the idea. It’s a nasty loop of pain, stress, sleeplessness and pain.

And that’s without  even having RA. Again I ask, why single out RA patients for this pain threshold question? It can apply to anyone.

And what about the “people who tend to catastrophize” part of the statement? What does “tend to” mean. Does it mean they studied people who have frequent, intractable pain who complain about it a lot? How did they find those people? How was the RA pain they complained about categorized? As “mild?” “Moderate?” “Severe?” How long had they had the disease? Was their RA being treated? Were they taking pain medications? Did their pain keep them from working, playing with their kids, or doing things they loved? Did it stop them from doing little, everyday things like lift a coffee cup, fold laundry, open a jar of peanut butter or even button their own clothes?

An accusation of “catastrophizing”—and that’s what it feels like to me—better have a lot more depth beneath it if it means to be taken seriously.

This is not the first time I’ve seen RA patients’ pain trivialized—even pooh-poohed—like this. A couple of years ago the Arthritis Foundation magazine also ran an article that suggested that those of us with RA “catastrophize” our condition, thus making it seem worse than it really is. It was a not-so-subtle implication that, far from being the tough, courageous and often stoic people we actually are, we’re all doom-and-gloomers. Weaklings. Head-cases. Wimps.

I take serious exception to that premise. You probably do, too.

Trudeau Stress Less review and giveaway

Did you know that you have 27 separate joints in each hand? And eight in each wrist?

I didn’t either, but it’s true.

Those 35 tiny joints, several of which may be inflamed at any given moment, explains a lot of the pain and discomfort I’ve had in my hands and wrists off and on for the last … well … several years, now. Not to mention the last several months and weeks, when the pain started ramping up and sticking around full-time.

So perhaps you can understand why, when Trudeau, a maker of high quality kitchen products, emailed and asked me to review their new Stress Less line, I agreed to help them out. Hmm, thought I. Anything that stresses those 35 wee joints less as I prepare meals each day will be greatly appreciated.

Before I gave Trudeau an answer, though, I had a look at their website. I wanted to be sure that I wouldn’t be wasting my time—or theirs. To my pleasant surprise, the Stress Less line looked and sounded like capital Q Quality products. I emailed back to Trudeau and agreed to write the review.

Several days later a largish package arrived in the mail. Gently nestled inside cushiony swathes of bubble wrap were large, matching salt and pepper mills, a can opener, a pizza cutter, a garlic press and a cheese shredder.

My first impression? How absolutely well-made these kitchen gadgets were! Each one felt smooth and solid in my hands. Initially, I wondered if their weight might be a problem on bad-hand days, but as I discovered later, the products’ slight heaviness is an advantage. They’re beautifully designed and perfectly balanced. They feel good and they look good.

The first products I tried—at supper that evening—were the Stress Less Easy Grind Salt Mill and the Stress Less Easy Grind Pepper Mill. With their modern, ergonomic design, both mills are easy to grip—and they’re easy on the eyes. They’re made of tough, crystal-clear acrylic and shiny stainless steel. The big knobs on the cranks are made of a nice, grippy black rubber.  Unlike other mills, which require that you twist both hands in opposite directions (a maneuver that can be excruciating for someone with sore, tender joints) to work the grinder, I found I could gently grasp the narrow-waisted middle of the Trudeau mills with my left hand and turn the crank almost effortlessly with my right. A separate knob allows you to choose the fineness or coarseness of the grind. The grinding mechanism is made of stay-sharp carbon steel and has a lifetime warranty.

Trudeau states that these mills are four times easier to use than other mills, and I have to believe it. They’re useful, functional, beautiful tools. I loved them from the start and have used them daily ever since they arrived.

It wasn’t until a few days later that I tried the Stress Less Pizza Cutter, mainly because it wasn’t until then that we had an actual pizza to cut for supper. The Trudeau version of the gadget looks just the same as any other pizza cutter except for one thing: the cutting wheel is about 50 percent larger. At first I wondered what the big deal was. So the wheel is bigger, so what? When the pizza came out of the oven, I compared the Stress Less cutter with our old one.

Well! To my surprise, I had to press down much harder on the older, smaller cutter and roll it back and forth several times to get a full diagonal cut all the way through the pizza crust to the board.  The Stress Less Pizza Cutter, however, needed little downward pressure. The oversized cutting wheel meant that I didn’t need to roll it back and forth more than a couple of times. In addition, the Trudeau pizza cutter’s ergonomic handle (with a finger guard) can be gripped and used at a 45 degree angle to the pizza or gripped … hmmm … forehand, with the cutter upright and at right angles to the pie. The wheel is made of stainless steel, can be detached from the handle for easy cleaning, and comes with a lifetime warranty. It’s a keeper.

Like the pizza cutter, the Stress Less Garlic Press doesn’t look much different from other garlic presses. Maybe it’s a little larger. But here’s the key difference: the Stress Less Garlic Press has been uniquely designed so that it can rest on the counter. The garlic clove can be pressed using your body weight rather than squeezing the handles in your hand! If you’ve ever needed to press garlic when your hands are hurting, you can appreciate this. All by itself, it makes the Stress Less Garlic Press a valuable gadget for your kitchen. Other nice features: the handles are comfortable and non-slip, there’s a built-in cleaner, the press is dishwasher-safe and it comes with a five-year warranty.

We don’t use a lot of canned goods around here, so it wasn’t until Mother’s Day that I finally tried the Stress Less Can Opener. The egg casserole I prepared for our family brunch required a can of diced tomatoes. Ahah! thought I. Finally I have a reason to try that Trudeau can opener!

Except I couldn’t figure out how to use it. It’s the sleekest, prettiest can opener I’ve ever seen, but if I can’t make it open a can, it’s useless. Frustrated, I pulled our old, manual rotary can opener out of the drawer and got to work.

Today, however, I decided to check the Trudeau website, hoping it might have instructions for that lovely can opener. Better than instructions: it had a video of someone demonstrating how to use the gadget. I watched, rolled my eyes at myself and went to the kitchen to open a can of tuna for my lunch.

With its ergonomic handles, the can opener fit the can just as shown in the video. Easy. I turned the crank, and wow, gang. Trudeau states that “An easier and safer can opener is a convenient kitchen tool for anyone, and for those with reduced hand strength, a must-have essential. The rotating cranking arm provides increased leverage, requiring 50 percent less effort.”

No kidding. That mighty little can opener took the top off that can so smoothly, and with so little effort, that I could hardly believe it. I don’t know about you, but I always dread having to twist the traditional can opener crank with my sore fingers. The Stress Less can opener requires almost no pressure. Another nice thing about it is that there’s a tiny gripper jaw to lift the top of the can away, which is handy. The removed can-top has no sharp edges. And the final cool feature? It folds nearly flat to fit neatly into your kitchen utensils drawer. I heart this can opener (now that I’ve got the hang of it).

I used the Trudeau Stress Less Cheese Grater in preparing our Mother’s Day brunch casserole, too. But I’ve got to be honest: this particular gadget wasn’t as easy on the hands as the others were, and I found it awkward to use.

That isn’t to say that it’s not a great gadget, because it is. States Trudeau: “[The] Rotary Cheese Grater requires minimal effort to grate cheeses and chocolates. Ergonomically designed to reduce pressure on fingertips and eliminate wrist torsion, the cast iron handle rotates easily which activates the stainless steel grating drum to turn. The vertical design allows cheese to fall directly on food.” This is all true. But on Mother’s Day my hands were (as they often are these days) pretty sore. I cut an inch-and-a-half thick piece of sharp cheddar cheese and put it into the grater. Holding the grater shut with my left hand, I turned the crank with my right. It was pretty hard to turn while holding the grater over a bowl to catch the shredding cheese, and as the chunk inside the grater grew thinner, holding the gadget tightly shut took more and more hand strength. With a couple more similarly sized chunks of cheese left to grate, I gave up using the Stress Less Cheese Grater and went back to that old kitchen stand-by, the box grater. Mom happened by at just the right moment and took over the cheese-grating duties for me, saving my hands from further cheese-grating aggravation.

Trudeau states that the grater is designed ergonomically, can be used by both right- and left-handers, has a spring-loaded door and a stainless steel drum. It also has a lifetime warranty. All true.

I liked how finely the Stress Less Cheese Grater shredded that cheddar cheese, even though I had trouble using it. I think that it might work better on harder aged cheeses, such as parmesan or romano. Maybe the chunk of cheddar was too thick? I was also concerned that it might be difficult to clean the grater after use, since it doesn’t come apart. But a good rinse and a short soak left it nice and clean. I’ll certainly try it again when my hands are less sore.

Trudeau is offering two free sets (total retail price of each set is $143) of the Stress Less kitchen gadgets I’ve reviewed today. If you’d like a chance to win one of the sets, email me at by midnight PST on May 20th. I’ll put all the names into a hat and ask my Mom to close her eyes and draw two at random on May 21st. Be sure to include your contact information in your email so I can reach you if you’re a winner. Trudeau will send the kitchen gadgets at no cost to you by mail.
Note:  Trudeau sent me their products to try, review and keep, but I was not paid nor did I promise Trudeau anything in return but an honest opinion about the products.  The opinion expressed above are mine and mine alone.

Changes …

Three days ago I made the decision to eat healthily and mindfully again. By that I mean I’m staying away from junk foods, those simple carbohydrates like candy and cookies, potato chips and crackers, white bread and pasta. They all convert directly to glucose after you eat them, causing a sugar surge in the body that can cause all kinds of damage over time.

Oh, my, what a temptation. Oh, my, how unhealthy this stuff is!

I’ve always had a really hard time not eating these foods when they’re readily available. They’ve been especially difficult for me to ignore since I’ve been staying with my mother. She loves them all and can eat them without gaining weight or having other problems.

I’m not blaming Mom for my own gobbling of foods that I know are bad for me. Just because they’re handy is no excuse. So, after several false starts, I’ve dumped that feeling of hopelessness and finally reached the mindset I need in order to eat better.

Why am I telling you this? Well, to share some goodish news. For last few days my long-term, RA-flared hands and wrists have been a little less painful. Does consuming fewer carbs have anything to do with this pleasant turn of events? What about eating lots of leafy greens and other veggies?  Or the fresh fruit I’ve been eating instead of handfuls of cookies or (hangs her head) jelly beans? Could those healthy complex carbs I’ve stuck to, like wholegrain bread, pasta and brown basmati rice, be having an effect on my RA?

Maybe. But even if not, there are a lot of other benefits to eating with care.

Kate, who writes the blog “Cooking with Arthur” is a clinical nutritionist in the UK. She has psoriatic arthritis and osteoarthritis in her lower back. Kate notes that for each pound of weight lost, you reduce the stress on your knees by four pounds.  And it’s been proven that eating with care so that you reach a healthy weight (not necessarily the bantam-weight society dictates) makes you feel better and reduces your chance of getting diabetes, cancer or heart problems, as well.

I don’t know if suddenly changing my diet is why my hands feel a little better,

This is a much healthier way to eat. Note there are not even any wholegrain foods in this pyramid. I haven’t been able to do that well, yet, but I’m working on it.

particularly since the response came so fast. But I do believe that it can’t help but be helpful over time. Although I’ve given up a lot of ground in the weight loss battle over the last eight months, I’m finally back on the wagon now. I know from experience that I’ll feel better physically as the weight slips away again.

And I’ll feel better mentally, too. When I’m overweight, I feel blumphy, sludgy and slow. I dislike the way I look and the way my clothes fit (or don’t fit, unfortunately). I’m uncomfortable and uneasy in myself, if you know what I mean.

As those extra pounds come off, though, my spirits rise. I feel better overall. I know I look better, which makes me feel more confident. More cheerful.  Getting back to a healthy weight makes me stronger. Tougher.  More resilient. I move more, but with less effort. It’s a win-win situation.

Do check out Kate’s blog. She offers autoimmune arthritis-friendly recipes that are chock full of vitamins, fiber and protein. That’s wonderful by itself, but even better, her recipes are simple and delicious.

And I’m making some changes.



Riding the carousel (and get ready for World Autoimmune Arthritis Day)

I’m stuck, it seems, on the RA roller coaster. (Do check out RA Guy’s breathtaking video animation about that particular analogy. It’s quite fitting, except, unlike RA, the ride finally ends …)

Personally, I’ve never been fond of roller coasters. Too scary. To much harrowing anticipation, too many heart-stopping falls and jarring, jerking turns. Instead, I always preferred the carousel with its sweet, cheery music and brightly colored galloping horses and exotic wild animals. The carousel was perfect for a child with an overactive imagination. It never bothered me that my steed was only going in circles.  I was always sadly disappointed when the ride ended. If I’d had my way, I’d have stayed on that carousel all day long, lost in my imagination while the rest of my family got the daylights (and the carnival food) scared and shaken out of them on the roller coaster and bumper cars.

I was an odd child.

I was forced to ride the RA roller coaster for the first 10 years or so following my diagnosis. It was miserable. Jarring. Scary as hell. And then suddenly, without warning, I was allowed off the ride.  I went into complete remission—for about six years. It was nice, being back in the non-carny world. I was able to get on with things at a time in my life—late 30s, early-to-mid 40s—when careers typically take off. I was a professional journalist with a job I loved. In my off-work time, I enjoyed hiking, backpacking and camping in the wilds with my family. Things were going very well. I began to forget the roller coaster years.

Of course, my RA woke up and became active again. I was back at the carnival, but instead of being forced into a seat on the roller coaster, I was allowed to ride the RA carousel.

This analogy works for me when it comes to how my RA has been over the last seven years. (I am always a bit stunned when I realize how many years have passed since I was in remission!) My less-than-trusty steed is the rheuma-dragon, slick, shining, blood-red and oozing black.  He slithers around in a wide, continuous circle, never really reaching a goal (either remission or cure). Along the circuit he rises and falls. For the first couple of years, the ups and downs were gentle, sometimes almost imperceptible apart from the sharp-toothed, nibbling fear that the dragon carousel might transform into a roller coaster. The ominous symptoms of the disease were back, but they were mild, easy to deal with and sometimes, even easy to ignore. So I did, as often as I could.

Over time, though, the dragon’s ups got steeper and scarier, and the downs more like free-falling. The carousel started speeding. I started thinking about getting off the ride while I could (found a rheumatologist and began drug therapy).

Today the carousel whirls and the dragon leaps and falls, leaps and falls, with only a few, unreliable hours of level motion in between. The ride isn’t quite a roller coaster , but I can feel it wanting to be. My hands and feet are bound to my rheuma-dragon’s saddle as he leaps along in great, fast, blurring circles, and the sweet, tinkling music has become something strange, cacophonous and shrill …

Sigh. Silly, overdramatic Wren. She’s gliding gently into old age, but she still has that long-ago child’s overactive—no, hyperactive—imagination. If there’s a consolation it’s that she rarely get bored.

One day, perhaps, medical science will allow me to climb off my dragon and walk away from the evil RA carnival, once and for all. I no longer think it will happen soon, but I do think a cure for autoimmune rheumatoid arthritis will be found in my lifetime. And if it doesn’t, I believe it will happen for all you younger folks out there.

World Autoimmune Arthritis Day

May 7th is the first birthday of the International Autoimmune Arthritis Movement, and May 20th the first ever World Autoimmune Arthritis Day. From IAAM’s website: “IAAM introduced the term “Autoimmune Arthritis” to the community in 2009 … [to create] awareness about these misunderstood diseases by differentiating them from the other 100+ arthritis conditions.  The term originated in medical journals but was never defined.  Therefore, IAAM worked with a Rheumatology Board to determine an official definition and to select the main diseases that would fall into this category. In 2012, “Autoimmune Arthritis” has developed into the politically correct phrase to describe a specific group of illnesses.  By differentiating arthritis instead of lumping all types under one umbrella, awareness is finally happening.”

The specific illnesses that IAAM feels should fall under the Autoimmune Arthritis umbrella are: Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA), Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS), Sjogren’s Syndrome (SS), Systemic Lupus Erythematosis (SLE), Still’s Disease, Juvenile Arthritis (JA), and Mixed and Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Diseases (MCTD/UCTD).

 “World Autoimmune Arthritis Day (WAAD) was established in 2012 by IAAM and will be celebrated each year on May 20th,” states the WAAD website. “Because the term “arthritis” covers over 100+ conditions that involve joint pain, Autoimmune Arthritis Diseases are a small group of like illnesses that share both symptoms and treatment methods.  By creating a separate day for this group, awareness about these specific, systemic, and sometime deadly diseases can finally be brought to a global level.”

According to IAAM, they have “established World Autoimmune Arthritis Day (WAAD)  … on May 20th, online and during all time zones, [thereby]making it a 47-hour online event.  This Virtual Convention will unite patients, supporters and nonprofits from around the globe, inviting them to participate in both live and on-demand presentations, scheduled live chat sessions, surveys, live Call to Action posts and access to an online library of downloadable resources that can help them and their supporters in managing their diseases. Thus far, WAAD is registered on 16 health calendars internationally and has already received nonprofit support from over a dozen organizations, including the American College of Rheumatology, the Spondylitis Association of America, Arthritis New Zealand, the International Still’s Disease Foundation and Lupus UK.

“As the official Host of this historic event, IAAM invites YOU to be a part of it too. Best of all?  It’s FREE to register!”

You can do so by clicking this link.

Education about RA and other autoimmune diseases is vital and needed by those who have the disease and—just as importantly—by their caregivers, families and the world at large. IAAM has created an excellent way to learn about them and, perhaps in time, help to find better treatments and—dare I say it?—a cure.