Rheumatoid Arthritis: What’s Wrong With This Picture?

And before anyone gets upset, I am not trying to compare the diseases mentioned above, all of which are serious. I am merely trying to make a point about the uninformed comments and lack of awareness that RA Superheroes encounter on a regular basis. We have all received these responses, plus many others, at one time or another during our journey through chronic pain and debilitating inflammation.

93 Comments
93 comments
  1. sdurkee33 says:

    This is fantastic…Thank you so much! I get that all the time too.

    btw… “I’m so sorry, what can I do to help?” :)

  2. RA Guy says:

    @sdurkee33: Yeah, I’m not advocating that people should feel sorry for us, either…I just needed a short expression of sympathy/understanding for my cartoon, and ran (or hobbled) with this one!

  3. Arlene says:

    Yes, I’ve heard these and more. I think most people do not even realize that RA is a disease. It’s strange. I remember when I was a teen that I had a teenage friend who had RA. She was told that one day she may not be able to play her instruments anymore.

  4. Laurie says:

    My favorite is “I have a little arthritis in my knee too.” My RA has attacked my lungs, liver, kidneys and hip. Sorry about your knee… What can I do to help? lol

  5. Laurie says:

    Oh and I have breast cancer and had breakthrough RA pain during surgery… RA=much more painful to me so far by far cancer seems treatable but RA seems to be here to stay.

  6. daina says:

    My favorite is “Does it hurt?” No, it feels like I’m getting a couple hours of a therapeutic massage (sarcasm totally intended on that last part).

  7. Dawn says:

    OMG, Laurie, LOVE IT! My RA has attacked my kidneys and brain (CVD), I’ve had a mastectomy and a total hysterectomy both from cancer! LOVE IT RA GUY! I get that garbage all the time! or the “oh, I know how you feel, man, when it’s fixin to rain, my right knee just kills me” OMG……get a LIFE! I’ve had 21 surgeries, 2 joint replacements, tendon transplants in all fingers and now CVD, cervical stenosis in my neck and 2 herniated discs in LL spine! Oh what FUN!!! Hey, but I can still point around a corner without bending my finger!!!

  8. SouthernGirl says:

    Thoughts not in the pic:

    “Have you tried fish oil?”

    “I saw some cactus juice on tv the other day…”

    “You need to change your diet.”
    blah, blah, blah, yada, yada, yada

  9. Brooke says:

    I have a friend who tells people she has Type II Rabies instead of RA when she gets sick of explaining it. I think it’s funny.

  10. Rachelle Voisin says:

    SO TRUE!!!! RA does not get the respect that other diseases get.
    Thanks for having the conversation!

  11. kristen says:

    Brooke……… I almost fell off my chair laughing at that!!! That is good, I have to use it! I am still laughing! RA Guy….thanks for the cartoon!

  12. nan says:

    this is the catch22 of RA! Decades ago, it was much more obvious when an individual had RA due to the crooked fingers, etc. nowadays thanks to the newer meds. many of us “look” fine even though we still suffer the pain, fatigue, depression, etc. that accompanies RA…very interesting interpretation RA Guy!

  13. Susan says:

    How about: “I got RA, too, but I don’t let it stop me, I won a dance contest the other night!” Hmmm…Okay…Sounds like a typical RA patient to me! (sarcasm, of course, on the last part). When I asked this “friend” what RA meds she was on, she could not name any and then said she chose to “rough it”—-Yeah, we do need awareness…..Thank you for all you do RA Guy! We love you!

  14. Rosemary says:

    So true! One of the nurses I worked with had breast cancer and was allowed to miss nearly a year of work and keep her job……yet I was not allowed the same for RA…..sad! Not that I think they shouldn’t have allowed her the time off…..just think the same should have been afforded me. Instead, I got fired.

  15. Xenia says:

    Dislike when I hear: I totally understand how you feel I have arthritis too, my thumb/foot/elbow/whatever always hurts!!…sniff!

  16. Bert says:

    That is soooo good and unfortunately so true. People don’t get it and we don’t get the same understanding. Will it ever change? I worry about my job, too.

  17. Cammie says:

    Love it RA Guy!!! We truly do need awareness. I have been through and heard all of the above comments. Also I had too really fight to get accommodations at my work. It was so awful and stressful for me. Finally got what I needed at work , but I had to go down a level to get the accommodations I needed. So sad.

  18. Halo_Jones says:

    I love this and the comments! Some misinformed people basically equate RA to an annoying headache – they’re dismissive even if they don’t mean to be. And the unwanted advice! If someone told me they had cancer my first reaction would not be to reel off an unasked for list of “cures” and “lifestyle changes” as if I was some sort of expert because I read a magazine article once.

    By the way Bengta, my response to the “But you don’t look sick!!” these days tends to be “And you don’t look insensitive, see how misleading appearances can be?” If done in the right friendly tone it can make people rethink their statements.

  19. Elisabeth says:

    So true! However, it is generally not those people’s fault that they don’t know anything about the disease. Sometimes I just say thank you, sometimes I try to spread awareness. It’s hard for people to fathom how we feel when we look fine, especially on our good days when some of us possibly could win a dance contest! That’s why blogs like this are so important.

  20. barbara says:

    perfect, couldn’t have said it any better! people just dont get how debilitating it can be. I agree with many telling me I don’t look sick is ridicules!

    thanks for all your hard work in making people aware!!

  21. Louise says:

    People are misinformed and there is not much of a public profile for RA. I have simplified it down to say Inflammatory Joint Disease – even though it affects more than joints, I feel that people think a little more as the word ‘arthritis’ can come with preconceived ideas, being shared by other conditions.

  22. Lisa says:

    To be fair its probably something I would have said before suffering 11 years of RA and not knowing what I do now.
    But I also get what you are all saying xx Happy days to everyone.

  23. Kelly says:

    Yep. Too true and annoying as he’ll. I have begun to refer to my biologic infusions as chemotherapy because it really is a form of chemo and it forces others to reevaluate my condition a bit, thank goodness.

  24. Doreen says:

    WOW – so very true!! And sad at the same time. I really wish they’d rename our disease!

  25. Ronie says:

    I so want to change the name, RA is not arthritis!!!! It is an autoimmune disease, the outward signs of the progression is “arthritis-like” symptoms and the only thing people understand!!!! This misunderstanding makes me so angry some days.

  26. Ronie says:

    Having to constantly check my liver function, kidney function lymph-nodes and adrenal glands have nothing to do with your achy pinky. Let me run you over with my car a couple times a day then we can talke

  27. Carol says:

    Kelly, I’ve done that too – talked about my chemotherapy. It’s amazing how quickly people’s attitude changes

  28. Di says:

    I was told yesterday that I DO NOT HAVE Arthritis. This was not my specialist.. a friend. Highly qualified, apparently.

  29. Amy says:

    Kelly, I so the same thing. It is chemo so why sugar-coat it? It does seem to make people understand just a wee bit more but not much.

  30. Dawn says:

    This is so true but I feel a bit uncomfotable sharing incase people think I’m comparing myself to someone with Cancer.

  31. Linda says:

    Dawn, I used to worry about that too, but then I realized I am SICK, and on a bunch of major dangerous and scary drugs. I just make sure when I say “chemo,” I am sure to say “low dose chemo.” People are smart to get that ANY amount of chemo defines our disease as serious, and not your run-of-the-mill sore pinky arthritis.

  32. Rosemarie says:

    Eventually people will take us seriously, it doesnt kill you, but it takes your life !! x Blessings and hope to all who suffer.

  33. Deb aka murphthesurf says:

    As I have so often said…beam me up Spock there is no intelligent life force down here. Love the cartoon! Sorry for the rest of the “normal” world though…they just don’t get it. Tractor beam ready :-)

  34. Jenn says:

    you’re too young is what I was told in my twenties and turned away. Now I need thumb replacements. I wish there was a way to punish that rheumatologist

  35. Martha says:

    I get so angry and upset when people say to me, “If you just lost weight it would go away.” I just want to yell at them, “So my weight makes it so I can’t hold a pen or make a fist? My weight makes my wrists swollen and sensitive to even the lightest touch?”. The reason I’m overweight in the first place is because of the stupid prednisone and having to quit soccer in high school. And they really don’t understand fibromyalgia. They say, “That can’t hurt, I’m barely touching you.”. I have been continually poked in the back & shoulders even after explaining my conditions, because people don’t believe me when I say it hurts. It’s so liberating to know that I’m not the only one going through this crap!

  36. ruby says:

    RA patient feel pain almost everyday even tho we take our daily med. I just hate it when somebody says your always complaining bout your pain. Yes we look physically fit outside but inside were suffering too much..

  37. Clare says:

    This is wicked, I laughed so much Ive put my neck out! This is so true I manage a restaurant and often get asked when grating parmasan on peoples pasta what happened to my wrist (as its splinted for work) I got bored of explaining and getting told ‘ohhh your too young to get RA’ or ‘ I have arthritis to, in my little finger’ (if only!) Its funnier the days when they can see my knee support aswell, that really confuses them lol! Im posting this straight onto my facebook because I don’t even think my real friends truely get it. Thanks RA GUY you are my new best friend xxx

  38. Isabelle says:

    Fantastic!! I felt so vindicated when I saw this. it’s not just me!! I am not alone! Thank you!!!

  39. John Smith says:

    I love this cartoon! I just turned 21, and was diagnosed with RA a month ago. Most of the time, if I tell people, they say ‘You’re too young’, or ‘My [insert joint here] hurts too!’ I would love to hear “Is their anything I can do to help?”

  40. Nancy says:

    Have had cancer 3 times and honestly I have said this to people MANY times why do they roll out the carpets when I tell them I have the Big C, but they look the doors when I tell them I have RA…HELLO the cancer is FROM THE RA! (whether it’s my ” awesome immune system” or the meds) it is such a twisted way people see diseases…I say we all shave our heads- you definitely are understood much more if you only “look sick”! ;)

  41. Jeff says:

    I have looked at this cartoon over and over. I want to put it on a T Shirt and wear it everywhere. I feel invisible most of the time and I have stopped telling people that I have RA when they asked why I am limping. I think it says it all!

  42. Andrew says:

    When I was young people would say “You’re too young to have pain” or “you’re faking it”. Now I’ll have to have My jaw fully “rebuilt” from bone loss and some days walking around the house is a bitch. Reaction now….”well, you’re too young to be disabled” and “you’ll have a tough time finding another job with that on your medical record.” I’m 35.

  43. katrine says:

    Reminded me of a plumber installing a new boiler in my kitchen. He made a mess and I asked him to clean it up as I couldn’t do it with my RA. He answered: “that’s what my wife says when she can’t be bothered”. Needless to say that he never worked here again! Sometimes people make you speechless. You wonder if you really heard right.

  44. Alicia says:

    This is so relatable! Made me nod in agreement. I have had RA since I was 2 years old (I am now 25) and when I was young(er) people would say exactly “You’re too young!”…they still do actually!

  45. Tula says:

    I’ve had RA for nearly 30 years, since I was 16. You’d think I would have heard everything by now, but people continue to amaze me. I’ve had an elderly man tell me to put a little WD-40 on my joints and that will fix ‘em right up. I had a woman in the elevator tell me that I have RA because I “internalize my emotions.”

    I’ve lost count of the number of people who say that all I have to do is use [insert favorite snake oil here] and I’ll be cured. Puh-lease. Like I haven’t tried everything under the sun already. The ones that really bug me are those who rail against medications, claiming that they don’t help and are only ways for the drug companies to make money. They always have some “natural” magical cure. Arguing with them is pointless, because they’re married to their particular POV (kind of like how people can get with politics or Mac vs. PC, LOL)

    Just last week, a guy in Whole Foods told me that meat causes arthritis because humans are not designed to be carnivores (wtf?) and I should go vegan. In college, I went out to dinner with a group of friends and the one driving the car I was in parked way at the back of the parking lot. I pointed out that I had a handicapped placard and his reply was that he wanted to leave those spots for people “who really need them.”

    You’d think friends who know you well would understand, but they really don’t. I have some friends who never seem to understand that I’m quite happy to park myself at a spa and get a massage or sit in a hot tub with a good book while they go off hiking on our group vacations. Really, I’m not just humoring them! I love, love, love hot tubs and massages :-)

    I could go on, but I’m sure you guys all know what it’s like. I’ve had years of people sneering or giving me the stink eye for parking in handicapped spots. The elderly can be the meanest, along with (disturbingly) people in wheelchairs, as though we “walking wounded” are somehow less handicapped (even though we’re probably in more pain and need the shorter distance to the front door more than a wheelchair person does). There was an episode of House that brought up the issue, which was kind of interesting. It’s hard enough getting “normal” people to respect the disease without the handicapped arguing amongst ourselves, though, so I try to refrain from arguing the issue.

    I stopped getting upset over people’s attitudes a long time ago. An old lady once demanded to know if I parked in handicapped spots often, so I gave her a big grin and said “yep, all the time.” She stormed off, presumably to report me to the store management, LOL!

    Nowadays I just try to have fun at the ignorant person’s expense. When they ask what’s wrong with me, I tell them my warranty expired. If they give me dirty looks, I smile and wave at them. It ticks them off more than any argument ever would. It’s kind of fun to get them all riled up.

    Oh, and I prefer the term handicapped to disabled, since in the world of computers (where I work) “disabled” means “doesn’t function.” I don’t feel that term describes me very well. I like “handicapped” better, since it is more like, I do function, but with a little help. Kind of like a handicap in golf or bowling :-)

    Sorry to be long-winded, but this topic strikes such a familiar chord with me.

  46. Steve says:

    I had a co-worker bring me a pamphlet about fish oil. He had good intentions, but I wanted to throw it down and tell him that fish oil is not a cure-all.

  47. Lozzikins says:

    Love this !! Thanks RA guy!
    Im in my early 20s and have got it in over 8 joints and If I have to hear one more person say “your too young to have arthritis” or “my friend tried these vitamin tablets she got online and they cured the arthritis on her finger ” I’ll scream !! Lol

  48. Shirley says:

    Hi, I hope you don’t mind someone from Ireland posting here? I love your cartoons, they are really clever :)
    I’ve been struggling with the whole RA thing for 6 months which I know isn’t long at all compared to lots of you here.
    I’ve had a slightly more knowledgeable response in general from people here when I explain I have RA. I think it may be because our climate is so damp and cool that a lot of people know about RA here and generally people are sympathetic although I’ve had lots of people tell me that they have it too…..in their hands or wherever -not :(
    with regard to the word ‘disability’ the politically correct phrase here is ‘mobility impaired’ which, I think, is apt.

  49. Jayelle says:

    I’m 19 years old, and new to nursing, but I have already encountered quite a few young and old people who suffer from RA. It’s so good to see somewhere that people can come together and talk about this!

    My mum (age 38) has suffered from RA for almost 11 years now, and no one seems to understand the pain she goes through… Although I don’t personally suffer from RA, I can just see how much pain it causes other people. I completely sympathise with people who suffer from cancer or have suffered from cancer, because yes, it is a horrible disease, and sometimes fatal. Well, at least with some types of cancer, the patient has hope of making a full recovery. Do RA sufferers have this hope? I didn’t think so.

    It’s nice to see so many people out there who understand exactly how my Mum feels, so I know she’s not alone :) xo

  50. Lindsey says:

    This almost made me cry. I went undiagnosed for ten years because everyone around me kept saying, ” it’s all in your head”.

    The cartoon is so true!

  51. Susan says:

    There are two things that freak me out: One being told that I am faking the pain. Second when someone who is perfectly healthy tries to “out pain” me.

    In life all you have to do is carry on – once you fall down it is so difficult to get back up again

  52. Rebecca says:

    Susan, I feel that! I’m always hearing of people saying (behind my back, of course!) “Why doesn’t she just shut the hell up, take a Tylenol, quit complaining, and move on with her day?”

    However, another issue I’ve noticed in the RA community is some people playing the “I have it worse” card. Once I had a girl harass me on my blog, call me pathetic and whiny, undermine my suffering because they had a more progressed condition and my blog tends to chronicle my flares as a way of coping. “I’ve got it worse and I can do this this and this and I’m fine! I never complain! You’re fine, I’ve seen your videos you can walk fine (I posted a couple of videos within my home where I might walk to a table or something lol) and you always complain!” was this girl’s attitude. I “complain” in the hopes of spreading this very message.

    It’s very frustrating, how we have a lot of people with this “I have it worse” almost superiority complex. I think another bit of awareness we need to learn is this: suffering is suffering, no matter how great or how small, and we need to be sensitive and supportive to all.

  53. Jill says:

    I love whoever said, “it doesn’t kill you but it takes your life! Oh how true!
    And for the people who want to “out pain me”, bring it on! I live to hear that there are people worse off than me. I count on it! It makes me appreciate that I could always be worse! Thank God, I’ve only had both shoulders replaced, wrist fused and foot rebuilt because X can’t even walk! I’m SO lucky!!

  54. Barbara says:

    LOVE this, and it’s so true. I get the “Oh, we all feel like that as we get older” comment, too, and it burns me up. I want to tell them, “You have no IDEA how I feel, so stop minimizing my pain.”

  55. Angela says:

    I have also heard them all. Change your diet, my leg,arm or whatever hurts too from sporting injury but my favorite is “You’re way to hot to have such an uncool disease”. ……….

  56. Faye says:

    I have Diabetes, Heart disease, Asthma, Degenerative Arthritis, Remission from ovarian cancer and have had 3 surgeries on my neck to replace degenerative disk, thyroid cancer and a benign tumor of the throat. My hands and other joints suffer daily of which I take Pain relievers along with other meds. I’m a nurse of over 20 years and although I’m not able to work now, I feel encouraged that I may return one day. When others see me about my daily routine of living, I’m asked or told…. “You don’t look sick to me, what did you say you had? Are you sure the Dr’s are right? You’ll get over it, you look fine to me, Why you so swollen? Or how long they say you got? These statements broke my heart and had me feeling bad because no matter how I felt , I had to continue living my daily life as best I could with no one really understanding how I felt or being made fun of my ” Mickey Mouse hands or my Extra large feet and swollen face. It’s really frustrating to have to explain that you don’t feel well or that your hands feet and joints hurt so badly. I usually keep to myself with my husband. It takes me longer to do things like…. Sewing, painting, creative cooking, Small crafts or decorating, even typing but I’m grateful I still can. Thank you RA Guy and fellow RA Comrades for sharing your experiences!

  57. Katie says:

    I’ve just discovered this and it’s great to know so many other people have had the same experiences (although not great when you think about it as it means the general public are still completely unaware). I’ve had all sorts of crazy comments, as you can imagine. My favourite was a Chinese girl who told me that if I went to the middle of nowhere in China there’s a medicine woman who’s known to completely cure arthritis hmm…

    I’m very lucky that my family, friends and boyfriend support me and help me overcome the arthritis, but I still feel like I have to hide my pain sometimes to spare them the pain of seeing me suffer.

  58. Jennifer says:

    how ’bout “how did you catch it?” and I hate when everyone looks at my hands when I share I have RA.
    Also, I get asked why am I sick all the time?

  59. Christina says:

    My name is Christina, and I am twenty-seven years old. I started displaying RA symptoms when I was twenty-five and a lot of the comments I got was…”It’s all in your head.”

    Thank God for this post. It now gives me the strength I need to fight back against those who are still determined that it is ‘all in my head’.

    I stumbled on your blog/page by accident, and I am so glad that I did! Thank you for your humor and encouragement. :) It brightens my day.

  60. Vickie says:

    I too have just stumbled upon this…thank you! I hear comments all the time! I’m 3rd generation RA sufferer/survivor? :) My mother apologizes to me all the time. I was diagnosed 5 years ago. Thank you for the humor and replies!! It’s nice to know WE are not alone. It’s sad to know that so many people still don’t know what we go through on a daily basis. Even my own family… :(

  61. Sophie says:

    Hi,
    I have had arthritis (JRA) as long as I can remember, literally, since I just turned 2 years old. That is about 41 years. So I guess I might have a slightly different perspective since it is all I have ever known. I know that people can be annoying with their suggestions (trust me, even after 41 years the “shark cartilage” comments still annoy me at times), but in general they are coming from a place of wanting to help (yes, I know, still annoying!). It is human nature to want to fix “problems”. Now, I know that doesn’t make it any less patronizing, however, for me, it does make it easier to nod and just move on to a different subject. We *know* how serious our disease is. We *know* that walking through a crowded supermarket parking lot after walking in the supermarket (if that is even possible, a “good day”…) is beyond agonizing, so parking in a DP spot is not a “choice”. You do not have to prove anything to anyone. (I have had people in my car say “Oh, I wish I had a placard”. To which I simply reply “You are more than welcome to it, but you have to take the arthritis that goes with it”. Trust me, they never say that again.)
    We have far too much to deal with with the disease itself than to bother with annoying and essentially thoughtless (though not mean-spirited, most of the time) comments from people who, to be honest, have no responsibility to understand our disease.
    Don’t let those comments even penetrate the surface.
    Take care,
    Sophie

  62. Em says:

    “You don’t look sick” and “I have a pain in my knee too” are my favorites.”You look too young” as well.Sometimes I want to tell these people that they have no idea what pain means to someone with RA.It’s not a little ache in my hands that is bothering me but it’s that kind of pain that makes me want to puke.Sometimes painkillers do absolutely nothing for me.What do you do then?I want to see those people cope with it.At first RA crushed me for few weeks when I found out about it,then the fighter inside me kicked in and I promised to myself that it’ll not stop me from reaching for my dreams.You just have to be strong.

  63. Stephen Licata says:

    Hey, Thanks.
    I haven’t found the fight in me yet. I just feel like I’m dying. But I will share this. Maybe someone will ‘get it’.

  64. Lisa Tipton says:

    I haven’t “found the fight” in me either, Stephen. I have already been forced out of my job. They were exceptionally cruel after I was diagnosed in Feb.and continued to pile more and more physical work on me until I couldn’t take it anymore. The comments from my co workers were the worst, I don’t look sick, I am just a whiner, I am faking it and we don’t have a place for you here. I wonder if there is a place for me anywhere now. This disease sucks your life away from you and nobody notices it but you.

  65. Maggie Hall says:

    As I sit here, desperate to use my hiking stick for its real purpose, have to tell you: Your cartoon makes me feel sooooo much better! Thanks, Maggie Hall.

  66. tk says:

    My 13 Y O daughter has Systemic Onset JRA and has suffered for 2 years now with this horrible disease. We have tried several medications, some have worked for months, others not at all and now she takes IV infusion treatments every 2 weeks only to withstand minor inflammation in her hands, fingers, wrists and knees along with the phantom rash that moves around her body. No one can know what it is like to see my precious, beautiful young lady not be able to walk sometimes, not be able to bath herself or go to the bathroom by herself, or lose 10- 20 pounds a month when having flare-ups so badly that she has to be picked up and sat up to keep from getting bed sores, to not be able to go to PE or Athletics in school(btw she is an awesome VB player). My daughter is fun loving, highly motivated and very outgoing and was always full of energy until this happened and for anyone to look at her you might can tell anything is wrong. This is why I was so proud of her when she had to use a automated buggy in Wal-Mart because she was unable to walk and the greeter told her rudely she was not allowed to play in that my daughter very nicely told her “Ma’am I have JRA and am not doing so well today” I was so proud
    she was not rude or hateful yet made her understand with one sentence that what you see is not always what it appears to be. God Bless all of you and keep us in your Prayers.

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