The soothing scents of lavender and patchouli swirled around the room; soft music flowed from hidden speakers. Massage therapists and estheticians wearing soft cushioned shoes silently guided clients to their rooms. The receptionist handed me a form to fill out; it was a standard document asking for a bit of personal information – name, address, how I came to hear about their spa, the usual stuff. A section on the back inquired about any medical conditions and I wrote down Rheumatoid Arthritis. I handed my form back to the receptionist and she entered the information into her computer. She looked up with a cheery smile and asked, “Aren’t you bit a young for arthritis?”
I filled out another set of forms at an emergency dental appointment; once again, they requested background on my medical history. I was led into a sterile-scented room where I reclined into the padded elongated chair. The hygienist entered with my forms on her clipboard, her eyes skimming over the questions. She raised her eyebrows. “Arthritis?”
In the waiting room of my Rheumatology clinic, people of all ages come and go, but there’s always one person who expresses their surprise at the amount of young people in the room. It’s the enduring misconception that arthritis, in all its forms, is a disease reserved for the aging. I consider myself a young woman, but let’s be honest, I’m no spring chicken; nevertheless I still have years to cover before I enter what is known as “middle age” – assuming that the definition of “middle age” is still around fifty years of age. I also have the good fortune of looking younger than my years because of fine family genes (hats off to you Mom and Dad).
I know, as with many medical ailments, it will take time and education for people to understand that arthritis is everyone’s malady, regardless of age, sex and status, and I’m fairly certain in the near future, I will encounter more people who will utter their surprise at my disease; but just once I’d love to hear someone say, “Aren’t you a bit young to buy that wine?”…
No? Wishful thinking? Perhaps…
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J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress, and international arthritis advocate who’s been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and has published poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.
I do remember those words, J. My dad said them when I told him about my diagnosis. “But–you’re too young for arthritis!” I was 31. At the time I completely agreed with him. I’d never heard of anyone my age having arthritis, either.
Now that I’m healing into middle-middle age, no one says that anymore. And of course, now I know better about RA myself.
Stay well, warm, and dry, J. And have a good week. 🙂
I was shocked to hear those words in relation to me, even when I was aware that it could strike at any age. You have a great week too 🙂
Love the beautiful writing and imagery in the post. Like Wren, I’m at an age where no one is surprised that I might have developed arthritis — but of course they’re relating to osteoarthritis that comes with age. I, too, would like to be “carded” for something, anything (except for perhaps an AARP membership!). The good news, if there is any, is that you’re young enough that a cure or remission protocol is totally foreseeable in your future. Here’s hoping it comes your way, and thanks for the great post.
Thank-you. I’m not sure I’ll see a cure in my lifetime, but I will certainly strive for that remission. And I’ll try not to be too disappointed if I’m not “carded” as much as I used to be :).
The problem is that the name is a misnomer. It’s not really “arthritis,” per se. I go see my doctor at a children’s hospital. The same one where I once worked. I used to feel that I was too young to develop this disease and then I went to his office where toddlers and teens are there with JRA. Cruel fate for them.
It’s so sad that children and young adults have to deal with this disease on top of everything else they still have to learn in life. I hope one day there will be a cure and no one will have to live through the pain and suffering of arthritis.
Thank you for your blog. Arthritis awareness is critical and we must educate “all” that it can and often does strike people at a young age. I was a “late” JRA diagnosis, always, family would comment, “You’re too young to be so stiff, to have arthritis, …” It is important to seek appropriate treatment asap before joint damage sets in. Insist that your doctor refer you to a specialist in the field if you or your child are experiencing arthritis symptoms.
I agree, it’s important to get diagnosed and start treatment early. I have been fighting for almost four years; I was lucky to get diagnosed early and start treatment. Now I manage as best I can, always focussing on the positive. Stay well.