So what does rheumatoid awareness mean to me?
It means that the world recognizes that rheumatoid arthritis, in particular, and rheumatoid disease, in general, isn’t just something that happens to old people. It happens to infants, children, teens, young adults, and middle aged people.
It means that when someone gets diagnosed, they’ve heard about the disease enough to know what it is, what they are getting into, and they don’t have to leave the doctor’s office completely dumbfounded, and go home and look it up on the Internet because they’ve never heard of it before.
It means that it’s no longer an invisible illness. It’s no longer something that we have to be ashamed of, that we hide in the shadows because of. It becomes a badge of honor and almost a sense of pride, but not derision or shame.
It means that people realize the legions of us that are out there, and they understand that we are a force to be reckoned with, both in-person and online.
It means that in spite of our illness or despite it, many of us are making it our mission in life to raise awareness because it’s extremely important work that desperately needs to be done.
It means that we are no longer alone in this fight. That anyone marginally connected to this illness become involved in raising awareness – that means the families and friends of patients, doctors, nurses, other medical and health professionals, and anyone else who has been touched or knows someone who has been touched by this illness.
It means that research keeps being done, and new drugs come through the pipeline, offering us hope, despite our pain.
It means that you can mention your illness to anyone, and they will know what you are talking about. They won’t ask “if it’s contagious”, or say “but you don’t look sick”, or tell you that “their grandmother has it”, or say that you’re “too young”, or any of the other completely stupid and offensive things that people tend to say.
It means I can talk openly and honestly with people about my illness and not worry that they are judging me or adjusting their expectations to fit a box that might not be accurate.
It means that I won’t have to worry that my future children will develop lupus or RA or some other illness because we will know the cause, and maybe, one day, we will even have a cure.
It means that this is only the beginning.