Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer

chamma chamma chameleon

I have come to realize that those of us with RA have many of the characteristics of the chameleon. Like the chameleon, we often “blend in” with our surroundings, making it difficult for others to identify us. That is both good and bad. It is great if you want to keep your condition private for any of a variety of reasons.

It is bad if you are trying to educate others about the impact of RA and the realities of what we deal with on a daily basis in our struggle to manage RA. The fact that our bodies often hide the true nature of RA would seem at first thought to be awesome! Most of the time that is true but on second thought….it can make it difficult to convey to others (and I include doctors in this as well) what those of us with RA are feeling physically, mentally and emotionally. That can be a very tricky place to be.

Which brings to mind a second way we are like the chameleon. We too have the ability to stay “hidden in our own world” much like the chameleon who may choose to be seen depending on it’s motivation. Chameleons not only blend in but also can show a deep contrast to their surroundings (in their case for mating purposes).

In the case of those of us with RA, we sometimes are motivated “to be seen” and heard. RA patients need those in our “world” to respond with empathy, respect and support. It is beyond difficult to handle the lack of understanding about RA. Most of the world believes that 1) RA is just another name for traditional arthritis and 2) it is 100% treatable. Both of these are myths which need to be dispelled.

I have explained in past posts the difference between RA and traditional arthritis – so if you want more details just check out that previous post. When it comes to the mistaken belief about treatment I think that is due to some misunderstandings about RA. Going back to the belief it is “regular” arthritis, most folks believe that a few Advil and all will be better. But even for those who know that our treatment is more intense and complicated, they still don’t fully comprehend that RA is fickle – demanding immediate and ongoing attention.

Unlike chronic diseases such as diabetes and asthma, RA is not truly “controllable”. Only a very small percentage (around 5%) of RA patients remit. That means the other 95% have varying levels of disease control, many with minimal success. Add to that the roller coaster nature of RA and you can understand why, like the chameleon, we are tough to “find” sometimes. I would go so far as to say that just like no two chameleons are alike, so to you will find that in a room of 50 folks, no two RA patients are undergoing the identical treatments and are on the identical medications. That is a fact!

On the other hand, often you will find that folks who have manageable diseases (like diabetes and asthma) are on identical protocols and their disease symptoms can be managed if they follow proper treatment protocols. I am not diminishing in any way the severity of those diseases or their impact on a persons life. Yet I wish that there was a “set” of protocols that would ensure my RA symptoms would be alleviated! I have to admit that this makes me frustrated at times. RA gets very little attention despite the fact that estimates indicate that 1% of the world population suffers from RA or 70,00,000 people and the morbidity rate is off the charts! One would think that these facts coupled with the high cost of treating RA would yield more research and attention. If only that were true.

Which brings me back to the chameleon….I chose to be like the colorful chameleon…I want to draw attention to RA in the hopes that if enough of us (remember we are 70 million strong!) stand up and identify ourselves, someone will take notice and the funding and medical attention will be proportionate to the number of people that suffer! That is my hope, my wish and my purpose.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Sarah
    5 years ago

    Wow this is so true I have made posts and have never been able to describe the hell that is RA I’m so tired of people that don’t truly understand including family! Like you said they think it’s just arthritis and it’s not if it was I wouldn’t have had to get 5 surgeries at the age of 28 and I’m completely disabled!I had back surgery three weeks ago which was my third one in a year and my sister had a baby two days after and I now have a beautiful nephew I call her at least once a day to check on them but not once has she asked if I’m ok and this is what I always deal with from my family and friends they make plans without the consideration of even asking if I’m feeling good enough to go my sister tell me were going to church Sunday then to the park to eat afterwards I can’t even sit through a church service the only way I’m comfortable is laying on my side but they tell me that’s what were doing! I don’t feel good today and probably won’t feel much better tomorrow or could feel worse but that doesn’t matter only what they demand of me matters then when I say I don’t even know how I’ll feel tomorrow so I can’t promise that I’m going they get mad so selfish and inconsiderate! If it was me and someone in my family was as sick as I am I would think of how they feel and I wouldn’t demand them to do things and get mad when they can’t my goal everyday is just to get out of bed and be the best mom I can if I do that every day that’s a big accomplishment! I can’t even cook dinner anymore and I used to love to cook every night. So going from that to just getting out of bed being a huge day for me is a lot I wish they would just understand and have some compassion! It took 4 RA doctors before I could even find one who treated me like a human being! I have the best doctor now she is very sweet and cares about her patients which is rare! So if I could ask anything from people its to be understanding! Try some compassion for your loved ones dealing with this life changing horrible disease I have not yet found a treatment that has helped me I hope I will one day and the government will understand that research for a cure for RA is just as important as cancer research the number one disease in this country that causes disability is some form of arthritis and people don’t understand that! So next time people make comments they should do some research first! Thanks for posting this article at least I know I’m not alone with what I go through and I hope you can feel better soon and have a better life cause this life living with this is a very miserable! I hope you have a supportive family or someone in your life you can count on to be there for you!

  • Mariah Z. Leach moderator
    5 years ago

    Hi Nan – I think you make a great point. It can be very difficult to properly and effectively convey to others how much we are suffering – particularly when we suffer so much that we get good at handling it!

  • Nan Hart moderator author
    5 years ago

    so true Mariah. And although it is terrific that thanks for the wonderful advancenments in treatment the days of severe overtly obvious disability are not as common, it does not lessen the pain of flares and other physical problems not easily apparent to the naked eye. It makes that decision about sharing that much more of a personal one…

  • Poll