Someone told me recently that Rheumatoid Arthritis is NOT a serious disease anymore. Her logic? Because people rarely wind up in wheelchairs anymore.

Oh. My. God.

Excellent reasoning. Sorry, I missed that pertinent point – my joints have been hurting far too much for me to really look at it from that angle.

I must also add that this woman is someone I have known for many years. While we don’t spend every weekend together, we have gone on holidays together, and regularly get together for dinner and a glass of red.

And she’s a podiatrist. Yep. She works with people who have RA all the time. She’s a podiatrist who treats people’s deformed, painful feet on a daily basis, and she believes Rheumatoid Arthritis is NOT a serious disease.

I was speechless.

It’s clear to me that she is not a stupid person.  But she was being a mean person.  She wanted to upset me.  She felt her personal situation was worse than mine. Some people need to play ‘my pain is worse than your pain.’

I told her that I have been in pain every day for the last four years. Some days that pain is unbearable. The pain never, ever goes away. I paste a big smile on my face and get on with things, because there is no other option. She didn’t flinch. I could almost hear the ‘yeah yeah…’

I take chemotherapy drugs. They don’t give you chemotherapy for a ‘minor’ disease. Yes, there are mild cases of rheumatoid arthritis. Those cases get treated with an anti-inflammatory (nsaid) or maybe plaquenil. And if there’s no organ involvement, maybe it isn’t as serious a disease.

You can tell how serious a disease is, by the treatments that a doctor has prescribed. Google methotrexate. Google Imuran. Google salazopyrin. Google presnisolone. Google Humira, Enbrel, Rituxan, Actemra. Read people’s experiences. Look at the potential side effects. Pretty serious stuff.

Without a doubt the medications I take are shortening my life. Without the medications I take, I HAVE NO LIFE. I would be curled up on the couch, unable to move, unable to do anything but cry. That’s pretty serious, if you ask me.

Rheumatoid arthritis has attacked my kidneys, my heart, my eyes. My liver is doing pretty well, but the medications I take are working on that. Pretty serious, if you ask me.

And yet, people still feel it’s OK to stay stupid things to me like ‘Rheumatoid Arthritis is not a serious disease’.

Rheumatoid arthritis has taken my career, my marriage, my financial future, many of my dreams and most of my future plans.

It has also taken many of my friendships. Or rather I have gotten to the point where I no longer wish to continue a friendship with a person who cannot understand the reality of a life of chronic pain. That may not make them a bad person, perhaps just a self involved one.  But it sure doesn’t make them someone I want as a friend either!  And because I keep smiling, work hard and look good on the outside, even people close to believe that I am not very sick.  And they think its OK to tell me so.

Because I don’t spend my entire life talking about, dwelling on, and complaining about pain, people forget its there.  I’d LOVE to forget it’s there. That is indeed one of the reasons I DON’T spend my entire life talking about pain.  Talking about it means thinking about it…dwelling on it.  I prefer to try and distract myself, and block it out.  Not possible with severe pain, but I try.

I no longer see this person. I never wish to. Not because she is a bad, horrible person. She has many great qualities. But she is lacking the one major quality that I need from the people in my life – compassion.  And the understanding that Rheumatoid Arthritis, certainly the way that I have it, IS a serious disease.

Whether you use a wheelchair or not.

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