RA Guy Is Pleased To Present ‘Show Us Your Hands!’: An Inflammatory Arthritis Community Collage Project

A little over a week ago, I posted a request for people to send me photos of their hands, in order to put together an inflammatory arthritis community collage. Originally I thought that I would receive around a hundred photos, or maybe even two hundred photos, if the response was really strong. In the end, I ended up receiving more than five hundred photos!

And what amazed me the most was not just the number of photos that people were sending in, but the personal messages that they attached to their submissions. I quickly realized that this wasn’t just a ‘simple’ collage project, but was in fact–for many people–much more.

Two main themes emerged. The first was the sense of community that people felt, as a result of contributing to this project. One of the goals of this collage was for it to become a symbol of the wonderfully supportive autoimmune arthritis community that continues to grow around the world, and in this regard these expectations were easily met.

The second theme that emerged really, really moved me. Yes, the inspiration for this project came from a previous blog post that I wrote about being proud of my arthritis hands…but I wasn’t prepared for all of the personal stories, related to this topic, that I received. Many people told me that they have been ashamed of their hands for the entire time that they’ve been living with autoimmune arthritis (and for some people, this has been for almost their entire lives,) and that for the first time ever, as a result of intentionally taking and sharing a photo of their hands, they no longer felt the need to hide their hands. These words, and the accompanying photos, moved me to tears. Not tears of sadness, but tears of pure emotion. Tears of happiness.

I know that this project will mean many different things to many different people. To some people, like Cecilia, “this project represents a form of healing, represented by an acceptance of my damaged body joints, in this case, my hands.” To other people, these images might be a bitter pill to swallow, as they might force us to confront certain fears that are inherent in the toll that these diseases take on our hands; hands which are simultaneously private and public parts of our personal selves.

It’s been a pleasure to work on this project over the past week, and I’d like to thank each and every person who contributed photos and who helped make this collage a great success. So now, I’m happy to finally be able to share the results of ‘Show Us Your Hands!’:

  • A new website, which will be completely dedicated to this new project. The home page contains a digital collage, which will continue to grown in the future as even more people submit their photos. Every time this collage is loaded, the photos are displayed in a new random order. You can scroll up and down, and see all of the images as a whole. Or, you can click on any individual image, and look at each photo more closely.
  • A commemorative poster, which proudly displays the first 483 hand photos which were submitted to this community collage project. All of the net proceeds from the sale of this poster go towards the hosting costs and operating expenses associated with current and future projects of ‘Show Us Your Hands!’, an international awareness movement which serves to unite and inspire the inflammatory arthritis community.

A link to this new website is included below. While you’re there, please don’t forget to sign the guestbook…I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts and reactions to this community awareness project. Thanks again for all your help!

 www.ShowUsYourHands.com

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

23 Comments
23 comments
  1. Kelly says:

    Thank you for such a profound project. It truly shows we are all connected by a nasty disease and we all band together when needed. :)

  2. nancy Dorsey says:

    Thank you for your dedication to all of us. This is an amazing project. I was one of those “hide my hands” people, now I feel empowered & in excellent company <3

  3. Puksta family says:

    Thank you for this inspiring community art project. People such as yourself make this world a good place to live! We are proud to have our 6 yr old hero be a part of this project! Kudos to you and your dedication!!!

  4. Bert Stenzel says:

    Thank you so much for doing this, RA Guy! You are my superhero and I am honored to be included in the project. Projects like these are what we need to raise awareness. Thanks again!

  5. Moselle says:

    Never thought I’d see my hands as beautiful again, but this is exactly how I feel right now, as if we, together, are beautiful. Thank you so much.

  6. Alice Cossneer says:

    I never noticed until this that my hands are no longer pretty …hmmm …maybe they still are, just not to regular people! :D

  7. Alanna McCarthy says:

    This was so very powerful!! I am so very proud of my hands regardless of what shape they take in the future. Thank you so much!

  8. Beth says:

    Thanks for this, I will submit one if you need one for the site. Its me getting my Actemra infusion. I also paint my nails all kinds of crazy colors because, its in defrence to the pain and deformity that I feel with my hands. Thats the artist in me.

    Way to go – great project. Hugs ~ Beth H.

  9. Michelle Maria says:

    RA Guy you are TRULY amazing!

    I love this idea-I don’t know if you plan at some point to make posters of the hand collage; however if you do and they are purchasable I would like to give one to my Rheumatologist, for his office. These photos speak volumes and the message is clear.

    We all have our own stories to share, the journeys we traveled and the people we have met along the way. Thank you for your web page and for ALL the amazing stories you share with us. I can’t thank you enough! Muchas gracias…

  10. Connie Sutter says:

    I’m curious about pic 72 and the ‘double rings’ on her fingers. What is the purpose of them and do they help give your fingers more support and strength?

  11. ginaRClark says:

    Being seen when one has an illness that is invisible to others is a transformational moment. This project is a revelation to people in the arthritis community but also those with preconceived notions. I am moved by your efforts and the response of the community of people who participated. Bravo!

  12. Tami Brown says:

    What a fantastic way to help us all feel part of a community and to no longer feel alone or “ashamed” of our RA hands. This was both inspiring and empowering. I now have somewhat more of a feeling of pride in my RA hands. They may not be perfect or beautiful, but they’re mine…and there is still so much they have to do…

  13. Gillian Pidler says:

    This really is an amazing project & I think all rheumy offices should have one up! Great idea Michelle. I think the shape of our hands shows not only our daily struggle but also how strong we are inside.
    Thanks again RA Guy :)

  14. Karen Weber says:

    Awesome, awesome job RA Guy! I posted this to my Facebook wall. I feel fortunate that I do not have extreme deformity in my hands (yet). My heart goes out to those who do.

  15. Donna Hays says:

    I would LOVE a poster! I think it would be nice to give to my rheumy so they can show others how “proud” we are of our RA hands! Thanks for doing this project!

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