People who have rheumatoid arthritis are just like everyone else. We work for a living, have families and friends, shop and run errands and play. Many of us have hobbies and pursue our passions with dedication and joy. We want to do everything we can–just like anyone.
But sometimes, the unpredictable joint stiffness, pain, fatigue, and malaise that this persnickety autoimmune disease frequently causes can force us to slow down …
I know I’m not alone in this; it’s one of the most frequent comments I run across in blogs and other social media platforms. RD’s activity-dampening effect is, perhaps, one of the most aggravating–and sometimes, heartbreaking–characteristics of the disease. It rudely horns into our lives and changes them, often stopping us from doing the things we love to do. Do we like it? Not one little bit.
May is National Arthritis Awareness Month. Led by the Arthritis Foundation, it’s an effort to increase public awareness of all kinds of arthritis and the serious toll they take on American lives personally, socially, and economically. The point is also to raise awareness and funds for research, treatments, and cures.
I say “cures,” plural, because there are more than 100 types of arthritis. One single cure won’t do it. The types of arthritis include osteoarthritis, the most well-known and common; rheumatoid arthritis; gout; psoriatic arthritis; polyarthritis rheumatica; and many, many others. Injury or infection are behind some types of arthritis.
That’s the thing: each type has a different underlying cause, ranging from normal wear and tear with aging to high levels of uric acid in the blood. What they have in common is joint inflammation—arthritis—as a major symptom.
I have rheumatoid “arthritis.” I prefer to call it rheumatoid “disease.” Why?
I don’t use the common name of the disease I’ve had for almost three decades. Instead, I call it rheumatoid disease, and there’s a reason.
As a writer, I love words. They have enormous power. They mold and shape how we think about and perceive the world around us. Call a forest “beautiful” and I’ll think of Bambi; call it “dark” or “looming” and I’ll think of the monsters that might be hiding in the understory hoping to shoot his mother dead. But it’s still just a forest: a thick stand of trees, plants, and underbrush that provides a thriving environment for insects, birds, and animals, along with a ready source of food, fuel, shelter–and fantasy–for human beings.
I woke up the morning of my latest rheumatology appointment with tender, achy hands and feet. Out of sorts and frustrated, I gimped to the bathroom to take my morning meds, including a Tramadol. As I swallowed it, not expecting much in terms of relief but resigned to trying—I have to do something, I thought—it occurred to me that once again, my pain was new.
New. You’d think after all these years I’d be used to my achy, tender fingers and feet. I’ve experienced them—literally—thousands, maybe even millions of times. But pain, somehow, always comes back brand new and reborn.