World Arthritis Day

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Friday, October 12, was World Arthritis Day. This is a cause so near and dear to my heart for so many reasons. But, instead of telling you statistics, I'm going to tell you a story. (YAY, a story!)

For weeks now, one of my junior students has been struggling with not feeling right. She's been to the doctor many times now... at first, they thought kidney stones, but ruled that out. Now, they're throwing around scary terms like MS, fibromyalgia, and lupus, but no action is being taken. She's getting skinnier by the second and, what's worse, she looks miserable. About a week ago, in class, I brought up my RA and other autoimmune diseases when I was leading a class discussion about what defines us. I told my students that I have RA, but that it doesn't define me -- it's a part of me, and I could have let it really shape me as a person, but I've learned to live with it, good days and bad. 

On Friday, World Arthritis Day, my student came up to my desk and asked if she could talk to me. Ever have one of those defining moments where you KNOW this is powerful? That was Friday for me. She sat down and told me how awful she feels, how miserable she is, how she's hurting and sad and scared and doesn't know what to do next. I literally catapulted back to 12 years ago... I swear it was me sitting on the opposite side of my desk. Mostly, she told me how alone she felt in all of this. 

At that moment, it didn't matter what my class was doing (they were working on speeches, by the way, and were engrossed in their work). It didn't matter what my lesson for the day was. It mattered that I could support this child going through something terrible. It mattered that I could tell her, "I've been where you are and I know how this feels but it's going to get better." It mattered that I could say, "You are not alone in this." She cried. I cried. My class either was or pretended to be oblivious (bless them, little angels). 

Autoimmune diseases, especially juvenile arthritis and other juvenile diseases, can be so isolating. Kids shouldn't get sick. Period. But they do. And feeling sick and alone is even worse than just feeling sick. So much, I wish I could take the pain away from my student, take it on me so she wouldn't have to feel it and all the repercussions from this right now. I told her it was okay to be sad and hurt and angry, but it still doesn't make it any better. 

Something good DID come out of it, though. My student sent me an email over the weekend saying she'd talked to her mom and her parents are going to take her to a specialist. She sounded so much more upbeat in her email, and her last line was, "Thank you again for everything. I can't remember the last time I felt good talking to someone." 

If someone in your life is struggling with a disease... arthritis, autoimmune, or otherwise, I urge you to give that person a hug, ask how s/he is doing, and remind that person, whether verbally or otherwise, that s/he isn't alone. 


  1. That is such an awesome story :) So glad you could make her feel better & I hope they find out what the problem is quickly.

  2. Me too. :/ I hate seeing kids (or, anyone!) struggle -- it's just so unfair!

    I hope your week is going well! I'm sending tons of support and hugs your way!


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