Sorry, I didn’t realise it was a competition

It’s been less than a week since I was officially diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Or rather, since the day I burst out laughing when my doctor told me that the normal RA  count in healthy people is less than 30, while blood tests confirmed mine at 341.

Until this moment, I haven’t shared the news with many people, partly because most of my friends are hardened cynics who are as likely to accuse me of malingering as they would be of making ‘old lady’ jokes; and partly because as a lapsed Catholic, RA is probably punishment for some unspeakable sin I committed in a previous life and anyway, one shouldn’t call attention to oneself and one should simply soldier on and make the best of things (maybe those last bits are more to do with the six years I spent at school and university in England than Catholicism, now that I think about it).

What I have been a little surprised about are the people who have immediately responded with a war story along the lines of “oh? Well, I know someone who’s just been diagnosed with stage 5 pancreatic cancer”, as if that is meant to make either me or the unlucky other person feel any better. Maybe it is their awkward way of conveying sympathy. Maybe they are just too utterly British to know how to cope. They don’t know how to deal with it, what to do or what to say (or not) … and neither do I.

So there you are. I also play that game of comparing who’s got the most scary disease (“hey, at least my leg hasn’t fallen off”) to chivvy myself along because you know what? Buggered if I’m going to let RA put me in a wheelchair, turbocharged or not.


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