Woman’s Day Reply to Rheumatoid Arthritis Comments


Many have been asking about me Woman’s Day magazine’s RA article…

Here’s what happened.

On July 15, I gave my sincere response to a one page article in Woman’s Day on Rheumatoid Arthritis. Many of you responded to the online version of that same article with comments that were intelligent and straightforward. Some of those comments were good enough to be whole blog posts! And there are over 30 of them!

As I mentioned in that post, I also began attempting to directly respond to the magazine’s editors.

Fast forward to August 21. I mentioned the Woman’s Day article in a blog post on the mythical RA. That day, someone left a url for the author of the article in a comment on the blog. After I checked it out, I did email her directly.

Here’s where we stand

On August 25, I got a reply email from the author of the article, Judi Ketteler. Judi sent me the magazine’s reply. Here it is:

A Note from the Editors: Thank you all for your comments. We know that RA can cause severe pain, suffering and disability and certainly didn’t want to undermine that fact. This online story ran as a one-page article in the magazine under our “Checkup” column. The column (and story) is designed to provide a basic primer and is aimed primarily at people who are not familiar with the condition. It’s factually correct and the author interviewed a top rheumatologist. That being said, there are limitations to what we can cover in such a short amount of space. If we cover RA in the future, we hope to include real-life patient stories and provide more detailed information.

This was this past Tuesday. That was my first indication that someone at Woman’s Day was going to acknowledge us. I took some time to consider how to react.

What does this mean to us?

Someone close to me used to tell me: Some days chicken; some days feathers. If you’re from Texas, you’ll get it. The rest of us try.

I am predisposed to sports analogies and relate almost anything to football. So, I say: You win some, you lose some.

We lost this way

The editor’s at WD actually think that what they wrote is “factually correct” and a “basic primer” on “the condition.” It is excruciatingly obvious that they think that they are right. Unfortunately, the actual facts about Rheumatoid Arthritis are evident to us every day.

We won this way

At least we know the score. Where we stand is more apparent than ever. We have a 2-front war on our hands: 1) We fight Rheumatoid Arthritis in our own bodies and lives. 2) And we fight misperceptions about RA, too.

The WD article hit a hot button with people with rheumatoid disease because it is an illustration of what we deal with every day:

  • friends and neighbors who misjudge us because they don’t understand RA
  • family members who refuse to adjust expectations or offer appropriate assistance;
  • a general public which doubts the serious nature of our illness; employers who fail to recognize our limitations;
  • and certain doctors who view us as weak-willed whiners. My son says, “People misjudge by appearances.”

But we are in the fight. We are on the field. The game is not over.

NOTE: Woman’s Day has removed the original article with its non-apology. You can see the two screenshots of the original article at the bottom of this page – click here
Recommended reading:

Kelly Young

Kelly Young is an advocate providing ways for patients to be better informed and have a greater voice in their healthcare. She is the president of the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation. Kelly received national acknowledgement with the 2011 WebMD Health Hero award. Through her writing, speaking, and use of social media, she is building a more accurate awareness of Rheumatoid disease aka Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) geared toward the public and medical community; creating ways to empower patients to advocate for improved diagnosis and treatment; and bringing recognition and visibility to the Rheumatoid patient journey. In 2009, Kelly created Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior, a comprehensive website about RA of about 950 pages and writes periodically for other newsletters and websites. Kelly served on the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media Advisory Board. There are over 42,000 connections of her highly interactive Facebook Fan page. She created the hashtag: #rheum. Kelly is the mother of five, a home-schooler, Bible teacher, NASA enthusiast, and NFL fan. You can also connect with Kelly by on Twitter or YouTube, or LinkedIn. She has lived over nine years with unrelenting Rheumatoid disease. See also http://www.rawarrior.com/kelly-young-press/

17 thoughts on “Woman’s Day Reply to Rheumatoid Arthritis Comments

  • August 28, 2009 at 9:34 am
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    "We win some, we lose some"
    I get that. You're right Kelly, we do fight two front war.

    Not only do I deal with RA everyday, but when people "discover" that I am on disability I feel like I have to explain myself, because I don't LOOK sick. Only once in awhile people actually get it, others don't. I've had to let go of what the others may think about me, or I would go insane!!

    mer

    Reply
  • August 28, 2009 at 11:59 am
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    I think the folks at WD are sounding a little defensive. Seems like you hit a nerve there. Good! Let's keep at it!

    Reply
  • August 28, 2009 at 3:34 pm
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    It is also amazing Kel that you are able to fit so much information into such a teeny weeny little space. Info that, in my humble opinion, goes above and beyond a "basic primer"! I knew nothing about RA before i started reading your blog and now i feel like i might be able to help another non-RAer understand more clearly the real RA! Thanks Pal for your insight and humor! BTW is the chicken/feather thing sort of like the bug/windshield analogy? LOL!

    Reply
  • August 28, 2009 at 3:35 pm
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    WOW! If they have misrepresented RA this badly, can you believe anything else that they publish?

    Reply
  • August 29, 2009 at 3:24 am
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    It is with great sadness that I now realize that everyone at WD has rose colored glasses on. How truly pathetic that they will not research deeper into their own articles, blurbs, tidbits, etc. I know of several million people that may no longer buy, read, or trust this so called magazine. Makes all of us want to and need to work all the harder to get the truth out and take the rose colored glasses off the nation, nay, the world. OK, my rant is finished, for the moment!!!!

    Reply
  • August 31, 2009 at 11:32 am
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    Good that you brought up the issue to the RA community. Even though I don’t know much about RA, but surely have learned some from your site. Hopefully the notice create awareness so whoever is working on the subject needs to be thorough in their research and writings.

    Reply
  • February 26, 2010 at 8:02 pm
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    Articles which gloss over the realities of RA do a disservice to the many people suffering with the disease. As annoyances go, it’s right up there with the ads to treat “the minor aches and pains of arthritis”. It is good to inform many people that their aches and pains could be serious. It would be helpful, especially since RA targets women disproportionately, to have some lengthier articles about the realities of more severe arthritis. Far, far too many people have a mistaken idea that because the word “arthritis” is involved that it isn’t something serious.

    The other thing that has really bugged me is the many many articles about overcoming the disease. Don’t get me wrong, some of them are truly inspirational and I do enjoy reading those. But what I don’t want is an unrealistic expectation that everyone can have a fantastic outcome, and that if you don’t, it’s somehow your fault.

    At some point editors need to recognize that RA is a serious condition, with serious consequences and that many people are suffering nearly as much from the lack of public knowledge about the disease as from the disease itself. Please feel free to forward my comments to Woman’s Day!

    Reply
    • February 26, 2010 at 8:28 pm
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      Mary, I argued similar points to both the editor & the author of the article over emails back and forth. They both stood their ground, saying that the Arthritis Foundation supported their article and their viewpoint. I can’t forward your reply, but up in the 1st paragraph of this post there is a link to the “comments” there and you can add your 10 cents worth. 😎

      Reply
      • January 27, 2011 at 2:54 pm
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        Hi Kelly! I hadn’t realized you had posted a reply until just now; that was during an extremely crazy month medically for our family.

        There’s a reason why I’ve cooled on the Arthritis Foundation, and this is why. I’ve read their Arthritis magazine off and on for over twenty years. To me they are every bit as guilty of promoting the positive without balance for those of us less fortunate. We desperately need more public respect for RA. I am so delighted you have created this site and are so active in advocacy.

        -Mary

        Reply
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  • June 13, 2010 at 5:20 pm
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    Dear Warriors,

    Please don’t give up this fight. I just sent WD another letter, and e-mail.
    The truth of what “”Rheumatoid Autoimmune Disease” (love the new name idea) really is——is just begging to be told.
    Kelly has shown us all how to fight the good fight, so let’s keep this campaign going until they respond.
    Love you all!

    Reply
  • May 10, 2011 at 2:30 pm
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    Well… if Woman’s Day has a limited amount of space in which to present information on a condition why bother to print misinformation? Somewhere there is a very lazy editor.

    Reply
  • May 21, 2012 at 1:39 am
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    Dear Woman’s Day,
    As one of the many men and women who are suffering with rheumatoid arthritis I was very extremely disappointed in your article about RA last year. It made RA, which is a serious, disabling disease, seem like a minor problem. There is no ‘typical’ case of RA; every person’s disease follows it’s own course. However, the degree of pain and disability that I have suffered is very common for RA. There are a few people with RA who are lucky enough to have a mild case. A “mild case”may just be RA in it’s early stages which for some people lasts years. I often come across people who think they have RA who haven’t been properly diagnosed by a rheumatologist. New studies show that there is a “window of opportunity” in the first two years of the disease in which aggressive treatment can prevent damage to joints. This makes it absolutely imperative that the 1.3 million people in the U.S.with RA are diagnosed early in order to prevent disability. If people are not educated properly about RA we will continue the cycle of late diagnoses and disability. The human suffering can not be measured, and the strain on the Social Security system is reaching it’s breaking point. That is why I want to describe how the course my RA has taken and how it has affected my life.I was a concert violinist and was unable to continue in that job since 1999 or any other due to the RA. I am 50 years old and my RA started when I was 19 in 1981 when treatment consisted mainly of aspirin and corticosteroids. Because I was a violinist and my case was mild, I chose to stay in denial until my disease reared it’s head with a vengeance when I was 33. Until then, I found all sorts of reasons to explain away the pain in my feet and hands. Fatigue had been such a usual part of my life for so long that I failed to recognize it despite family urging me to go to the doctor. I have had both feet completely reconstructed, surgery on both hands and will have to have surgery again on one of my feet and hands this year.I I was married for 20 years and my husband, because of articles like yours and popular misconceptions,believed that having RA was my fault because of my “lifestyle choices”. He honestly thought if I lost some weight, got some exercise, and stopped taking all those drugs the doctors were conning me into believing I needed, that my RA would magically disappear. I wish it were true. These misconceptions are so widespread that they isolate rheumatoid arthritis patients and they contribute to divorces as they eventually did mine.Friends and family who can’t see pain and fatigue don’t understand that that RA patients never know from day to day, hour to hour how they are going to feel. We walk a tightrope between living as fully as possible and conserving energy. If you have had several really bad days then everything that you need to do piles up around you. A good day comes along and the tendency is to try to catch up on the piles of dirty laundry, go to the grocery store, and take care of all the other chores that have been neglected . But if you give in to this perfectly natural desire, the pendulum swings back and several days will be spent recovering in in bed. The obvious solution is for friends and family to help or to hire some help. Some lucky people do have family that they haven’t exhausted. Unfortunately, it is hard for most people to understand that people with RA may need help. Misinformation like your magazine article only compounds the problem.Several years ago I had a friend write me an scathing email about how selfish I was and ending a friendship after seeing me in the grocery store one evening after I couldn’t babysit her son that morning. I was stunned and incredibly hurt. But, she just couldn’t understand that the only way I could do the few essential chores I had to do like go to the grocery store was by staying in bed most of the day. Making plans becomes almost impossible and leads to loss of friends which results in isolation just when help, understanding, and support is needed most. .Living on Social Security Disability and having constant medical expenses like many RAer’s do, makes hiring household help, even occasionally not feasible. Before I had my feet reconstructed a year ago, when I would try to walk I fractured bones in my feet because they were so deformed from rheumatoid arthritis.I had to make a tough choice to start taking pain medications nearly 10 years ago so that I was able to have any quality of life at all. However, the pain medication only keeps my pain down to a dull roar. I, like most RA patients, made the risky decision of taking biologics. In 2000 it nearly cost me my life. One of the risks of biologics is death from a severe infection because of a suppressed immune system. This is exactly what happened to me after my first dose of Remicade. I developed MRSA pneumonia which led to septic shock.I spent 5 weeks comatose on a ventilator in that ICU perched between life and death followed by a long a tedious rehabilitation.I was so traumatized by the whole experience that it was ten years before I had the courage again to treat my RA with another biologic. No other therapy would slow down the progression of my disease, and those years caused a lot of damage that I can not reverse.I had to come to the realization that the quality of my life was so poor that I was willing to risk dying even after I had come so close to really losing it.RA patients who take biologics (Enbrel, Remicade,Orencia etc) ,which is the majority of patients with moderate to severe RA now, risk death and cancer rather than live with poorly controlled disease. RA patients feel sicker than many cancer patients going through chemo, but instead of it lasting for a few months it lasts for decades. People would not dream of treating a cancer patient they way RA patients are treated because most people hear rheumatoid arthritis and all they think of is their grandpa’s “rheumatism” or garden variety wear and tear osteoarthritis.One thing that no on ever talks about few people know is that RA patients have a significantly shortened lifespan because they usually die of heart disease. The chronic inflammation causes atherosclerosis. You need to publish a new article which is an accurate representation of RA that also stresses the need for early diagnoses in order to prevent disability. Interviewing real patients with documented RA and telling their stories would finally be a huge step towards educating the public about this disease.. It was sloppy and irresponsible of Woman’s Day to publish without doing the proper research(one source is not proper research!). RA is the number one case of disabilty in the US with approximately 1.3 million people in the United States have rheumatoid arthritis and about 1-2 percent of the world population are affected by rheumatoid arthritis.
    http://arthritis.about.com/od/rheumatoidarthritis/p/rheumatoidfacts.htm A study, published in the June issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism reveals that number of new cases of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in American women appears to be on the rise.(2.5% between 1995 and 2007). When you write an article about a disease that affects the lives of so many people so profoundly, it is your moral responsibility to due it accurately and thoughtfully. Rheumatoid arthritis patients find it extremely frustrating when RA is minimized in the press. We already fight an uphill battle trying to get other people to understand what the nature of the disease and how seriously it impacts so many lives. As a women’s magazine, you should be ashamed for misrepresenting a disease that affects so many women and their families.
    Sincerely,
    Kathryn Wieland
    (please withhold name if comments are published)
    “Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
    Watch your words, for they become actions.
    Watch your actions, for they become habits.
    Watch your habits, for they become character.
    Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
    The Dalai Lama

    Reply
  • November 30, 2012 at 9:59 pm
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    You have written a most awesome letter. I know it was draining especially on a “not so goodday” as I call them .( I have good,not so,pretty bad, and feel too bad to answer scale). Thank-you for sending this letter. There are so many people in the world and even the medical community , of which I have had to retire from, that don’t believe the ravages of RA. Yours is a powerful message.

    Reply
  • August 17, 2016 at 1:31 pm
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    I know exactly what you are saying about RA and the impact it has on you and everyone that it is associated with it. I have seen it first hand of what and how fast RA can totally disable a person. My wife has RA. But in an advance stage. Meaning. Not just one or 2 areas are affected. But it was all her joints at once. I could not touch her because she was in so much pain. I had to feed, bath, dress, even take her to the bathroom. RA IS A CRIPPLING DISEASE and until people actually experience it whether through a family member, friend or loved one. You will always be judged. My wife is on 8 different kinds of medication because of RA. I admire and respect anyone that has RA or any disease or ailments. Read up on RA and actually see how much they are limited in their movements because of the amount of pain they are in. Because they do their best to try and get through the day(as hard as it might be for them) as best as they can. SO PEOPLE NEVER JUDGE ANYONE AS WE OURSELVES DO NOT KNOW WHAT REALLY IS GOING THROUGH THAT PARTICULAR PERSON BODY.
    PS. Just so you know. Yes I am still with my wife and I will always

    Reply
  • July 14, 2017 at 9:21 pm
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    I bumped into this while looking for why in blazes the dam RA was eating my thigh. This is new. Like all the bizarre pain in the past 15 years, you stop finding it remarkable- you do not talk about it. You just want to know.

    This dismissive thing, especially on the part of women ( and a magazine entitled ‘ Women’s Day, Good Grief )has to be deliberate. My SON’S female rheum. ( he has EDS 3 ) was snarky with me on the topic- of MY RA. Whoa, what? Get it together, docs. My own rheum is female, brilliant, kind, supportive and why do they not all get on the same page?

    I vote we be allowed to tell insurance companies which docs get paid. If they’re not supportive, we’re not getting care, they do not get paid. Bet a gazillion bucks they’d start listening- and stop giving magazines tripe to publish. 2009- not much has changed in 2017.

    Reply

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