Living with rheumatoid arthritis can feel like a nightmare, which sometimes leads me to daydream about things that would make this journey a little easier.
Living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is challenging, to say the least. Swelling and stiffness can make it hard just to get out of bed. Pain can cause even minor movements to be excruciating. Fatigue can feel like a firm hand holding one down in place. This would all be hard enough to contend with in the context of empathy. However, most people have no idea that RA is a degenerative autoimmune disease without a cure. Therefore, many of us with the condition often feel we are suffering alone.
Sometimes people in our lives need help understanding RA
When our spouses, relatives, friends, co-workers, and bosses don’t understand what it’s like to live with an unpredictable chronic condition like RA, it would be a game-changer to have a way to insert that understanding into their brains. What if there was an I-Know-RA Spray that we could spritz them with, and they would instantly understand what we’re going through?
For instance, a concerned colleague asks why I’m wearing a wrist splint. When I tell her that I have rheumatoid arthritis, she says, “Oh I have arthritis in my elbow from tennis.” I dispense a quick spritz of I-Know-RA Spray. Suddenly, her response changes to, “I can’t imagine what it’s like to live with that condition. I know what the pain of tennis elbow is like, and it must be awful to have that kind of pain throughout your entire body.”
At the grocery store I run into an acquaintance who notices I’m limping while pushing my cart. When I tell him it’s because I have rheumatoid arthritis, he replies, “But you’re too young to have arthritis!” A quick spray of I-Know-RA, and instantly he changes his response to, “It must be hard to have an autoimmune disease to contend with so early in life. I wish young people could be spared from chronic conditions.”
When a relative asks how I’m doing and I share that I’m having a difficult time due to a flare, she says, “Well look on the bright side, at least it’s not cancer.” Spritz! Thanks to I-Know-RA Spray, her response becomes, “I hate that you have to deal with this, and I hope this flare passes soon. Is there anything I can do?”
While picking up my kids from school, another mom asks how I’m doing. When I decide to be honest and tell her that I’m actually having a tough day due to RA symptoms, she asks, “Have you tried ibuprofen?” With a misting of I-Know-RA Spray, she replies, “How frustrating that with all the medications you’re on, from anti-inflammatories to prescription Lidocaine patches to DMARDs to a monthly biologic infusion to over-the-counter and prescription painkillers and muscle relaxers, RA is still so stubborn. What a tough disease!”
When talking to a friend about RA, he tells me that his sister’s friend’s neighbor just cured her rheumatoid arthritis with a supplement, and that I should try it. Spritz! Instantly, he says, “I’ve heard about a supplement that helped someone’s RA, so I want to tell you about it because I would love to find something that would take away your pain. However, I know that a cure for RA has not been found, and that everyone with the disease responds differently to the drugs, diets, and alternative treatments used to decrease symptoms. If it’s okay with you, I’ll share what I heard about this supplement, taking it with a grain of salt since your response to it may not be the same.”
After barely making it through a long workday, I apologize to my friend that I can’t make it to her party because my RA symptoms have ramped up. She says, “But I invited you weeks ago and you said you would come!” With a spray of I-Know-RA, she changes her response to, “Man, that stinks. I’m really disappointed that I won’t get to see you, but I’m even more bummed that you aren’t feeling well. I hope you feel much better soon, and that getting some rest tonight helps.”
While those of us living with rheumatoid arthritis know that we must soldier on with this disease alone, and can’t reasonably expect others to understand what we’re going through, there are many times when I wish I had a can of I-Know-RA Spray on hand. It’s easy for others to misinterpret our actions as whiny, lazy, or overly dramatic. However, if we could instantly make them understand what it is like to live with RA, they would not only realize that we are truly doing the best that we can, but would also see how tenacious, determined, strong, and brave we really are.