Often when folks find out I’m arthritic and have two 5 year old ceramic hips I get one of two reactions.
Either folks try very hard to mask pity on their faces or they blatantly look me up and down like I would have a scarlet bluebird somewhere on my body that should have warned them. It often takes all I can not to shoot out some sort of retort and mostly because both reactions make me painfully aware of the fact that I’m not old enough in some people’s opinions and that while I suffer from a chronic illness that I don’t look sick or like I struggle with my disease on a daily basis.
Yet, I am painfully aware of what my illness does to my body and I wonder how it can’t be more apparent that I am sick. I can see the distortions in my hands, the struggle to put one foot in front of the other when I walk some days, and the exhaustion that lines my face on the days after I’ve taken my medications.
Maybe I just hide it well.
However, every so often I meet a person that finds my illness interesting and the fact that I had my hips replaced 6 days apart empowering. It’s so rare when it is someone that isn’t related to me by either birth or marriage that it will strike a chord with me.
Thank you to my recent coffee date who told me he was going back to tell a group of pro athletes that he felt they needed to suck some stuff up after hearing about my surgeries. His comment has stuck with me and I turned my energies to feeling proud of who I am and in turn wanting to spread that good feeling to other women like me.
In Canada women account for 2/3 of all new arthritis cases a year and arthritis is the number one reported chronic condition amongst women. 56% percent of current arthritis patients are under the age of 65 and people who suffer from arthritis are more likely to be overweight or be physically inactive than people who suffer from other chronic conditions. Arthritis patients are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety disorders at a rate of 1/3 higher than other chronic illness patients.
These are facts that only a handful of people know while the myths of arthritis are spread far and wide.
The truth of the matter is that women are bombarded these days with ideals. Ideal body type, ideal hair type, ideal skin condition and ideal fashion choices are part of the messages sent out over the airwaves, the internet, the print media, and the television.
Join this famous weight management company, use this amazing vitamin rich shampoo, this product will give you glowing skin and you should be wearing this bright colour which only a handful of people wear because it is “in” this season. You can’t escape it as it is everywhere.
I’ll admit some days I’m depressed by it because I’ve modified my diet but my limited mobility makes it so that I struggle to be as active as I need to be. I’ve used an amazing vitamin rich shampoo but it doesn’t do anything for the psoriasis that exists on my scalp and often flakes off onto my shoulders and usually at inopportune moments. I can’t use many skin products because it sets off my psoriasis and lucky me I have patches of it on my face where folks can see it a lot of the time and even foundation can set it off so covering it up can lead to a flare which just screams look at me. Plus a lot of folks don’t know what psoriasis is so they are often put off when they see it as one political gentleman was once when he saw the psoriasis under my nails and not only hesitated to shake my hand when we met but it was probably one of the shortest handshakes I’ve ever had in my life.
I’ve been volunteering time with The Arthritis Society – Manitoba/Nunavut Division when I can and recently they announced that they are going to be hosting my favourite fundraiser Sex and the City. This event is always a lot of fun to attend but the message has a special place in my heart. It’s about being empowered, coming together to support each other, living life being true to yourself and who you are, and sometimes accepting those things that happen in life that derail our overall life plan like cancer or struggling to conceive.
Or in my case being diagnosed with arthritis at 21.
The driving message of this event that I take to heart is EMBRACE who you are and be proud of it both good and bad because all of it makes up the amazing woman you are. It is an event where we embrace being arthritic, we embrace being women and shake off the bad that comes with being both be it having pain, medication side effects or the judgement we pass on ourselves when we look in the mirror because the ideal is something we may never be.
So I end this with the words of Carrie Bradshaw:
“They say nothing lasts forever: dreams change, trends come and go, but friendships never go out of style.” – Carrie Bradshaw