Friday, July 8, 2011

Rheumatoid Arthritis is Not for Sissies

One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Katherine Hepburn. When asked in an interview about health problems at age 81, when she suffered mobility issues and an ever more maddening palsy, she said, "Old age ain't for sissies." I always liked that statement, but I think
I now truly get it.

Kate Hepburn and others who are lucky enough to grow old live everyday with limitations, aches & pains, worries that the rest of us don't really understand. It's hard work.

In the two years since my Rheumatoid Arthritis went into fulltime active disease, I think I
have begun to really understand what it means to live with RA in a way I simply couldn't, even though my mother had mild RA. For those who wonder what it's like to have RA, let me try to explain in a way I guarantee you haven't read in an article or seen in a drug commercial:

Have you ever had an earache? Or a toothache? One of those pains that actually elicits a moan or a groan?

Try to imagine for a moment, that toothache. Imagine that it's in several different places in your body all at once. And you are exhausted, because toothaches cause fatigue.

Now, imagine that it simply never goes away.

Imagine that you go to the doctor, and he tells you there is nothing wrong to cause that pain. So you go to another doctor - a specialist - because it's not possible that there is no reason for that pain.

Imagine that the specialist tells you there is nothing wrong.

Time passes, you work up your courage to see another doctor, then another. Finally, someone decides you should see a rheumatologist (or like me, you research your symptoms on the internet and ask for a referral to a rheumatologist.)

The rheumatologist sends you for labwork, x-rays, examines you and names the reason for your pain and fatigue - finally! You are given prescriptions and told to take multiple pills or injections, or infusions. Some of these drugs have terrifying warning labels, some are used for cancer treatment, some are so new that long-term effects aren't known. The drugs make you vomit, they make your hair fall out, they give you headaches, acne, joint pain, chills, or other side effects. But you take them because you want to get well, and because sometimes they make your toothache feel a bit better.

Imagine that the toothache doesn't go away for long, if at all. Imagine that the drugs get stronger and stronger. And finally...

... imagine that you will do this for the rest of your life, because there is no cure for your toothache.

That toothache is Rheumatoid Arthritis. And let me tell you buddy, Rheumatoid Arthritis is not for sissies.


kimcollison said...

wow, someone finally described the feeling of ra well- all my best to you in conquering this awful disease we have been burdened with-ra is not for sissies!

The Rheuminator said...

Thx. :)