Sunday, July 11, 2010

Rheumatoid Arthritis: Involving Your Children

When I was first diagnosed with RA I very clearly remember talking to a friend whose mom had a type of debilitating arthritis and thus had to rely on a cane to get around. She told me how embarrassed she was to have her mom come to school functions or friends come over to her house. That conversation has stayed with me for years and has affected me in negative ways. I believe the time has come to address this conversation from my past. My RA doesn't have to be an embarrassment to my children. I am beginning to see this time around that just the opposite may be occurring...
I had two young children when my diagnosis came in 2003 and I had every intention of hiding my RA from them. The words "rheumatoid, arthritis, disease, sickness" were never mentioned in front of them and I was going to keep it that way. I put a smile on my face and cried at night when they went to sleep. I took my meds in my bathroom where they wouldn't see them. I was determined to do what I saw all of the other mothers doing with their children. However, I do remember on my bad days getting more hugs from my kids and even my 4-year-old mentioning me in her prayers at night...they knew despite all my efforts to hide it! Children sense when those they love and depend on are hurting and it is OK for them to be a part of your bad days. If not addressed it leaves them to worry about the unknown.
This time around I again have two little ones running around but also two older ones now ages 9 and 7. There is no way of avoiding their questions and concerns as they see their mother struggling up stairs or crying over the juice bottle she can't open in the morning. Just yesterday my 7-year-old noticed me taking a longer route in from our backyard to avoid our stairs and asked "Mom, what is that thing you have?" Yes, I didn't even hesitate in saying the words "rheumatoid arthritis." She accepted my answer and moved on with no further concerns. A few days later she asked, "Mom you know that thing you have, are you going to die from it?" I was so glad that our communication had been open enough that she dared ask me that question instead of letting it worry her privately. My 9-year-old prides herself in being able to open jars and bottles for me and helps so much with the younger siblings. Instead of letting anger and frustration take over in those moments as I watch her doing the things I once took for granted, I have been humbled into just being thankful for the help. I have the most amazing children. People often ask what I have done to raise such helpful, caring, and perceptive children. I have also pondered on this question myself and I have to believe that my RA has become a part of them too. They have learned to recognize when others are in need and have found ways to help and serve others as a result. This whole time I have been worried about RA ruining my children's childhood and about them being embarrassed of their mother when really they are becoming strong, loving, responsible human beings as a result of my RA. Let your children be a part of your battle. They have the right to know and the right to grow right along side of you.


  1. What a fantastic post! You're being brave, honest and straight-forward with your kids about your RA, and they're getting the benefits. Bravo to you, R. I'm so glad to read that you've put guilt over having this disease behind you so you can live your life to the fullest and both love and enjoy your children as you do. Thanks for joining the blogosphere and posting about this important subject. I'm adding you to my blogroll. Welcome!

  2. Thank you for being my first follower Wren. I have found a lot of strength from your blog and others on your blogroll. Thank you for including me. It feels good to know there are others out there like me...thanks!

  3. I have enjoyed reading through some of your posts so much! I have had RA since age 24, 18 years now and am the mom (we adopted) of a son, 8. I found your blog while searching for some examples of moms with illness and this article is exactly what I am looking for! --I am looking for feedback! I am an author/speaker/founder of I am about 1/2 way through writing a book for moms with chronic illness and would love your help! I am looking for your tips, stories, confessions, questions you'd like to see answered, and more. If you'd like to participate in answering my questions where I need examples for the book. . . and getting to know other moms with illness find us on FB at - Feel free to share this with others if you would like. i will be in touch about seeking permission to reprint some of your comments but would love to have you join our fb group too!