In the first year after rheumatoid arthritis came into my life, I quickly got tired of hearing people downplay RA as “just” arthritis. Here I was struggling with this new diagnosis and I was in a lot of pain because I had not yet found a treatment plan that worked for me, and what I was going through was being minimized as “just” arthritis. I would hear things such as “we all get arthritis as we get older,” and “well let’s face it, you are getting older.” My favorite comment was “we all get arthritis eventually and we all suck it up.” Seriously, I was 32 when I was diagnosed. If I was 50, those words “may” have made some sense to me but I was in my early 30s and I had been diagnosed with a destructive and debilitating form of arthritis.
Hearing “it’s just arthritis” didn’t really help and even osteoarthritis can be pretty painful so to that something is “just” simple doesn’t minimize what the sufferer is going though. Even so, arthritis from age and wear is tear is osteoarthritis. Further, osteoarthritis is much different than RA which is an autoimmune disease. Not to downplay lupus, but if I told people I had lupus, I would most likely get more sympathy. However, RA was “just” arthritis and as a result, it seemed no one could understand my need for understanding and sympathy. I found myself constantly explaining the difference between osteoarthritis and RA and I also found it ignorant that people would downplay the significance or pain associated with osteoarthritis. Unless you have lived with this a disease, you have no way of knowing its effect on the sufferer and even if you have, you only know how the disease affects you.
Every day, doctors learn more about RA and autoimmune diseases. Also, new treatments are popping up every day and these medications continue to help people living with RA to have normal lives. I know that there is hope despite RA and the years have taught me quite well that RA isn’t “just” arthritis. That statement no longer bothers and I no longer feel the need to have to explain my disease to anyone. RA is a part of my life but it no longer dictates it.
What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve heard about your arthritis condition?