The Kindness Of Strangers

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
-Aesop, The Lion and the Mouse

KindnessIt has been almost one month in which Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy has been able to leave the house without a cane or crutches.

Although things are much better than they were during May and June, there are still small occasional reminders of my rheumatoid arthritis. Every now and then my knuckles and right wrist get a burning sensation, and if I walk for more than an hour or so (which I did indeed do this weekend!) my knees start tingling.

As I returned to going around in public without a walking aid, I realize that there is something else that I am missing – the kindness of strangers.

When I entered my most flare, I was of a frame of mind that said that I should not have to rely upon the help of strangers when I was in public. (Asking for help at home was hard enough, the last thing I was going to do was ask for help from strangers.) If someone offered to hold open the door for me, or give me a hand when it was obvious that I was struggling, I often interpreted this not as a gentle act of kindness, but as a indication of my weakness.

I have since changed.

During these past few months, I slowly began to realize the little things that people around me did, in a genuine attempt to help me. Taxi drivers sped up and turned around in order to meet me at my doorstep, cashiers waited patiently as it took me a while to lean my crutches against the counter and fumble through my backpack, strangers in the store help open the door for me.

I could have reacted against each one of these actions, on the belief that I should and could do everything for myself. But I began to realize that a lot of people wanted to find a way to help, and the truth of the matter was that during my most painful moments these forms of help did serve in allowing me to exert slightly less energy and movement.

And in an odd sort of way, accepting these random acts of kindness from strangers went a long ways in realizing that is was okay to ask for help around the house. I was not relying on this help (we all strive to maintain our independence, I think), but I was definitely using this help on occasion to my benefit.

I still clearly remember some of my most painful periods which took place only a little more than a month ago. Instead of struggling to get dressed alone (my shoulders were killing me), I asked for help. As I look back, I realize that not pushing myself too hard at the moment played a major role in not worsening my pain, which ultimately allowed me to “heal” much faster.

Those stangers will never know how much their kind actions helped me, how their smiles lifted my spirits when I was struggling to move and deep down inside I was crying.

In addition to the family, friends and loved ones who are by my side day in and day out, these strangers who make their cameo appearances of support deserve their fair recognition as well.

To all the strangers out there who have offered me a helping hand in the past and who will offer me a helping hand in the future, thank you!

Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!

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Lyme Disease Review Panel – Thursday 7/30

On July 30, 2009 (8:00 AM – 5:00 PM EASTERN), IDSA will hold an all-day hearing of its Lyme Disease Review Panel to hear testimony from patients, physicians and scientists on its 2006 Lyme Disease Guidelines.

Full list of presenters.

In-person attendance at the hearing is by invitation only. However, the Hearing will be broadcast live, in real-time via webcast from the IDSA Website (www.idsociety.org/lymedisease.htm) and will be archived on the web for viewing at your convenience.  Information on how to attend via webcast will be posted on the IDSA website no later than one-week prior to the hearing.

For more information please visit the Infectious Disease Society of America.

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My Own Personal Symphony

MusicRheumatoid Arthritis Guy has been silenced.

In a good way, that is.

One of the less frequently discussed but much noticed improvements that I have undergone during the past few weeks has been the fact that my joints are no longer audible.

For the longest time, every subtle movement or change in position resulted in the inevitable popping on my joints – ranging from the deep dull pop in my knees to the high-pitched scale of musical notes that rang out from my fingers and toes.
It even got to a point where I felt like I was my own musical instrument. More than that still, I was an entire collection of musical instruments. Deep down inside, I secretly referred to the constant noise that was caused by my rheumatoid arthritis as “my own personal symphony”.

During those periods where moving my joints proved difficult, these sound effects were sort of like the ball that temporarily bounces back and forth in between the blinking bumpers on the arcade game – ding ding ding! Yes, I finally was able to move my left ankle, and I have the sound to prove it. Score! (Yes Tommy, I too can be a pinball wizard…)

At other times, having audible joints was not always been so welcome. This was usually the case during yoga class. (Well, at least any classmate who had any doubt about the reality of my invisible illness were soon enough convinced, if not by the sound of the words out of my mouth then by the sounds of the shouts that were being emitted directly from my joints!) As we started to slowly rotate our hands and feet as we came out of the deep relaxation at the end of class, the silence in the room was always interrupted by my noisy joints. I felt so embarrassed.

So very zen. I have a collection of Japanese garden bells hanging outside of my house. The noise they make is beautiful. When there is no wind all you hear is an occasional ring now and then. On a gusty day, it seems like they are in competition to see which one can be the loudest. Next time my body is stiff and creaky, I’ll just meditate and pretend that I have the little bells hanging all over me.

I have a pug – Oliver – who is a little over a year old. When he came home as a puppy, I knew next to nothing about this type of dog. I learned soon enough that their flattened noses means they also have a very restricted nasal passage, which causes them to snore, gasp, breath hard, and snort all day (and night) long. One of the benefits of his constant nose is that I always know where he is without having to look up. When he comes into the room, I know he is there. When he leaves the room, I know he is gone.

When my joints are singing their own tune, I have no doubt that other people can easily know when I enter and leave the room.

I am silent at the moment, but I have no doubt that once again in the future I will once again start performing my own personal symphony. Hearing my joints used to terrify me…next time, I’ll just sit back and enjoy the music.

Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!

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