Proverbs 27:17 – As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
I’ve been thinking about how important it is to have a strong community when dealing with rheumatoid arthritis. What kinds (notice the plural) of community are needed for those with RA? I attempt to outline a few in this post.
Family and Friends. I’ve heard that people who don’t have family or friends tend to be sicker and live fewer years. This applies to everyone but maybe even more so to those with a chronic illness. Those with whom you are closest can love and care for you unconditionally, see you on a regular basis, and can better understand your condition. And remember, RA also affects the lives of those closest to you. They oftentimes are required to pick up the slack.
The medical communityis critical. Medical staff may include physicians (generalists, rheumatologists, orthopedic surgeons, etc), nurses, physical therapists, lab techs, and others. Those with RA who keep regular doctor appointments and have long term treatment tend to do better and live longer. Sometimes it takes a while to establish strong relationships with medical staff. Finding a good doctor is a struggle for some. But persistence and research can pay off.
Social Networks/Support Groups. While family, friends, and medical professionals are important, only those with RA can fully understand the issues from all angles – they live it. I encourage all with RA to find networks of others with RA who can relate and communicate. Those networks may be local and/or virtual. The Arthritis Foundation offers links to local support networks and activities. While face-to-face interaction is important, it may not be possible for everyone considering the geographic location. The internet provides an excellent venue in a virtual environment. There are many social networks devoted to RA. But I’ve learned that you must be careful when choosing a network. Chronic illness can sometimes bring cynicism and negative attitudes in people. I find that many postings about treatments and medicines are from people with negative experiences. The most positive and supportive network I’ve found thus far is MyRACentral. Whatever kind of network you find, it is critical to stay connected and fully participate.
So, get out there and get connected!