Rheumatoid Arthritis is a serious disease


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.  A nasty person. She wanted to upset me.  To demean me.  She felt her personal situation was worse than mine, therefore she said Rheumatoid Arthritis is not a serious disease. 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 some very serious drugs, for a serious disease.  Some are used in much higher doses as chemotherapy.  The much lower dosage makes a huge difference of course, but they still have very serious potential side effects.  Yes, there are mild cases of rheumatoid arthritis. Those cases get treated with an anti-inflammatory (nsaid) or plaquenil. And if there’s no organ involvement, maybe it isn’t as serious a disease.  That doesn’t mean it doesn’t cause some serious pain though.  And mild RA can become severe RA.  Overnight.

You can tell how serious a disease is, by the treatments that a doctor has prescribed. Google methotrexate. Google Imuran. Google arava. Google presnisolone. Google Humira, Enbrel, Rituxan, Actemra. Read people’s experiences. Look at the potential side effects. Google oxycodone and morphine.  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.  Rheumatoid Arthritis IS a serious disease!

It has also taken most 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.  (Just!). 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 me 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 good qualities, we all do. 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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  1. Oh my!!! I am dumbfounded. What a ____! I can’t believe that ANYONE would think that RA is not a serious disease. Being in a wheelchair does NOT quantify a serious disease…LOADS of people with serious diseases may not end up in a wheelchair. SMH

    • Agreed! And from a health professional, to boot. Perhaps she was just angry with me, and wanted to say something hurtful. No matter the motive, same result. Not a friend. Can’t change people. Don’t have to be around them though 🙂

      Arthritic chick signature

  2. Hi. I’ve had RA for 30 years. I use to be in pain every day, until I switched to integretive medicine. Really worked hard at looking after my colon and stomach, as I was having problems with digestive disorders as well. I was able to eventually keep pain to the occasional flare ups, and very minimal damage to joints. Was able to stay off hard drugs for many years. Then I started getting sloppy with my diet again, even though I could still keep from being in constant pain everyday like I use to, the past couple of years I started having nasty flare ups and would have to do pulse therapy with prednisone. I have now developed lupus as well. Needless to say I’m back on strict diet again. I have had success minimizing joint pain and damage through diet, supplements, alternative joint injections (no drugs in injections) and a form of blood plasma injections to slow and calm down ANA. In 2009 there was a notable conference which involved top researchers on autoimmune disease which support healthy gut, healthy immune system. The World Health Organization states 70 – 80 % of the immune system is maintained through the digestive tract. Hope this info may be of help. All the best to everyone out their with cronic illness.


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