What Disease Do You Have?

February 15, 2009

Recently, a friend of mine confided to me that she had rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Now, to be perfectly honest, I was not exactly sure what that meant. I know what arthritis is…it was the rheumatoid part that I was unfamiliar with. So, in my kindest, most soothing voice I asked, “Is that the one where you go all shaky?” (For effect, I picked up my drink and shook it violently). She paused for a moment and said, “No, but thank you for your compassion”. She didn’t need to thank me, that’s what friends are for.

Since it was clear she didn’t really want to go into it, I decided to Wiki the subject. Let me be honest again, if RA is one of those diseases where you start swearing really loudly for no reason or fall to the floor twitching, I was going to need to find an escape hatch for this relationship pronto. I understand it is not their fault but I am not not good with dealing with such things. (I have asked my wife to have me put down if I should ever be so afflicted).

What I found on Wiki was not terribly disturbing. Primarily, it seems it is a joint problem and it leaves you aching a lot. There are a lot of medications available so it seems like my friend can continue to lead a fairly normal life. I was about to exit out of the page when I scrolled down and saw this photo:

arthrite_rhumatoide

Jesus, Joseph and Mary! Are you fu**ing kidding me?!? She is going to turn into the Elephant Man. (Well, Elephant Woman to be more specific). How in the world am I supposed to ignore that? What if she wants to shake hands sometimes? I am just supposed to grab her claw like nothing is happening? I am going to have to put some serious consideration on how to deal with this.

Look, I realize we all have some sort of physical imperfection (like mine being the extra long ding-ding…which has since been fixed). I was just kind of hoping it was something less obvious. Say like “shaky leg syndrome”. That one only seems to hit when you are lying down so it is basically a non-issue for most of us. Or maybe that one where you have to pee every 20 minutes. (Personally, I would just duct tape a Glad bag to my thingy but I can understand how others might be more particular). Or even some sort of yeast infection or Monkey Pox. You know…stuff that goes on everyday around you but you are unaware of it.

I guess if I am going to be a good friend, I am going to have to embrace her regardless of what happens. (And when I say embrace, I most assuredly mean metaphorically speaking). Man, maybe that whole Tourettes thing wouldn’t have been so bad after all.

Now that you know that I care for all God’s children, even the deformed ones, feel free to share your maladies with me. I will be sensitive and responsive to your needs and, as Jerry Lewis says, “You’ll never walk alone”. (Which, by the way, I have always found offensive since he is singing it to people in wheelchairs. His attempt at irony? Poor taste in my book).

As always, all of my love. TL