I am sure you have seen them... they are on every 20 minutes it seems, those commercials for a new RA miracle drug. They usually star a woman running around doing everything from building playgrounds to cooking a 10-course meal for her family.
RA is hard enough to deal with, people just don't understand it. They hear "arthritis" and you get, "Oh, I have that in my knee," or "My grandma had that," etc. Arthritis is one thing, Rheumatoid Arthritis is a whole other ballgame. I don't understand how the word "arthritis" even got in the name. Yes, ONE of the symptoms is arthritis. But that is where the similarities stop.
RA is an "autoimmune" disease. It is caused when something has gone wrong with the immune system and it begins to attack all the good healthy joints, lungs, heart, and other organs. There are all kinds of symptoms besides the burning and swelling of joints although this a very painful one. There are also the fevers, the fatigue, the infections, brain fog, depression, and so on and on and on.
I have tried almost all of the medicines out there and some work for a little while, others not at all and then there are the ones where the side effects are worse than the disease itself. I am not an expert on RA, believe me, just a patient who lives with it every single day of my life. If I can cook dinner for my family, it is a good day. If I can clean my own home it is a wonderful day. If I can go to the grocery and walk through the aisle on my own (with the aid of a shopping cart) and make it back out without catching some long leftover virus from someone walking past me, then it is like the 4th of July, fireworks and all!
The worst part for most patients that I have talked to is the lack of understanding and support. People don't understand it because of commercials like this that don't tell the real story. The patient doesn't "LOOK" sick, so it can't be that bad right? Wrong, we just learn to keep most of it to ourselves. So if you know someone with RA be kind.
If I have to go somewhere, do something important then I have to rest up the day before and again the day after. An afternoon shopping trip to most people sounds like a lot of fun. To someone like me it can be a nightmare. RA can lead to depression if you aren't careful. In my case, I don't think I am depressed although I do have DOWN days. I feel like I have to stay away from people to stay healthy. A flu to you is miserable. The flu to me is weeks in the hospital and thousands of dollars. It has made me a social hermit. I don't go out and do the things that may be fun because I just can't afford to pay for it later.
So if someone you know suffers from an autoimmune disease be patient. If they cancel plans or back out of doing the things they used to do... they have their reasons and need your understanding and support!
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