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.