Comparisons with Chronic Illness | Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior

Comparisons with Chronic Illness

A need for comparisons of chronic illness

Comparisons with Chronic Illness Kirsten Wiig
Did you ever know anyone who has to make comparisons with chronic illness? They are always more sick and get less sympathy. They have more extreme side effects and less support…

Chronic illness is just like other things – some people just need to compare. It’s like they have a need to win something. I doubt there really is a sickest award for a most pitiful story so I’d gladly let that person have “more RA”- or whatever else – than I have.

Aren’t comparisons with chronic illness silly?

Comparisons with chronic illness are actually pretty silly. What proof is there that one person has more pain? And what good would it do someone to triumph?

But for some people it seems very important. One person I know actually wants to prove she can endure more serious medical problems than I have with less medical attention. Is she trying to prove she’s stronger? What would she win?

Kristin Wiig, as Saturday Night Live‘s Penelope in Group Therapy with Liza Minnelli and Neil Patrick Harris, captures perfectly the lady who always has more of everything than everyone else. Of course, that includes more illness. Her exaggerating will crack you up. If you’re like me, you’ll imagine that special someone who you know and enjoy the sweetest revenge of all – laughter.

Maybe after the video, you can imagine Kristin doing Penelope as a patient making comparisons with chronic illness: “You think you have insomnia? I haven’t slept in five years. Treatments? I’ve tried 400 types with no results at all. Except that I actually died from the side effects. They resuscitated me. It was the Queen of England who gave me mouth to mouth. You think you have swelling? My little toe was the size of a pregnant whale…”

What kind of comparisons with chronic illness bug you?


Recommended reading:

Kelly O'Neill Young

Kelly O'Neill (formerly Kelly Young) has worked over 10 years as an advocate helping patients to be better informed and have a greater voice in their healthcare. She is the author of the best-selling book Rheumatoid Arthritis Unmasked: 10 Dangers of Rheumatoid Disease. Kelly received national acknowledgement with the 2011 WebMD Health Hero award. She is the president of the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation. Through her writing and speaking, she builds a more accurate awareness of rheumatoid disease (RD) aka rheumatoid arthritis (RA) geared toward the public and medical community; creates ways to empower patients to advocate for improved diagnosis and treatment; and brings recognition and visibility to the RA patient journey. In addition to RA Warrior, she writes periodically for newsletters, magazines, and websites. There are over 60,000 connections of her highly interactive Facebook page. You can also connect with Kelly by on Twitter or YouTube, or LinkedIn. She created the hashtag: #rheum. Kelly is a mother of five, longtime home-schooler, NASA enthusiast, and NFL fan. She has lived over thirteen years with unrelenting RD. See also https:/rawarrior.com/kelly-young-press/

20 thoughts on “Comparisons with Chronic Illness

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  • July 20, 2010 at 9:06 am
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    Kelly…That was hilarious!! Sometimes I think because we “look” vibrant or healthy others (especially elderly in my experience) do this to make a point they are more “deserving” of pity because of their age. (Gosh I hope I don’t offend anyone–this has just been my experience) I actually had a nurse go off on a patient who suggested since I was younger (I was 18 at the time), I should have to sit there until the “more serious” cases were seen, since I was “young and fine!” It was nice to have a defender of my cause!!!
    Ok, about “one upping”– I am going to be so careful from now on…I NEVER intentionally do that–sometimes I just share stories as “I understand” point of view, but I am now thinking sometimes they may be misconstrued as “one upping” them. Thanks for the enlightening. But I loved the skit! How do you think of these things??? :clap:

    Reply
    • July 20, 2010 at 9:50 am
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      I’m sure you don’t Nancy. Or you wouldn’t worry about it. 🙂

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  • July 20, 2010 at 10:42 am
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    HAHAHA!!! I KNOW a Penelope! She’s been trying to get an RA diagnosis for years. She diagnosed herself with fibro, but claims she’d NEVER take meds for it….she just ‘livvvvves with the paaaaainnnn’…..Funny how her ‘pain’ and ‘fatigue’ never seem to interfere with partying EVERY weekend, long motorcycle rides, jogging 5 mi. a day, cleaning her house (and I mean CLEANING!), painting her house, tilling her garden, etc.!! But then, she’s better than me at everything, so why not RA???? Thanks Kelly for the laugh. I will gladly give my RA to anyone who wants it. I’ll gladly go back to my career and let some other LUCKY person ‘get’ to retire at 43 and spend their days going through this. After all, my Penelope tells me I’m SO lucky I don’t HAVE to work anymore.

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    • July 20, 2010 at 8:44 pm
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      Oh Cindy, sounds like her life is hell on earth! (Is sarcasm forgiveable with a Penelope?) Of course we are also lucky we lie down & rest instead of get up & join the fun… 😛

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  • July 20, 2010 at 2:48 pm
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    This is likely one of the most common conversations people with illness have with, so thanks for reminding us…
    1- to have a sense of humor
    2- to not one up those people who are healthy; when they feel sick they really do think that that IS the worst it can get. They are blessed, but we don’t have to be the one to always remind them of that.
    3 – to not one up those with other illnesses. We are all in it together and too often I see people with chronic illness always trying to 1 up each other “I was on a lot more medication than that.” “I’ve had 4 surgeries on just one hand!” “I’m allergic to the medications. You are sooo much more luckier than I am because you can take all those!” (they don’t realize the complications and side effect.)

    Thanks for the fun video!

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  • July 20, 2010 at 4:33 pm
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    Nancy, I also hope I don’t come across as “one-upping” anyone. I try to share my past experiences, with the intention of providing hope and easing someone else’s journey. Thanks for the great post, and hilarious video, Kelly!

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    • July 20, 2010 at 9:04 pm
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      Julie, you are very far from Penelope! You are a great listener & share w/ the goal of helping. :heart:

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  • July 20, 2010 at 8:26 pm
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    Dear Kelly, Thanks for the laugh! I have a “Penelope” in my life, she is a co-worker who constantly tells me that her OA is sooo much worse than my RA because she has had it longer! I was diagnosed this past fall and have tried to keep complaints to myself at work. She always has everything worse than anyone else. Lord, she hasn’t got a clue!

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    • July 20, 2010 at 9:16 pm
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      Oh, I know that 1 joint w/ OA is worse than a whole body full of RA. Someone I know already gave me that education. 😛

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  • July 22, 2010 at 7:18 pm
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    I get frustrated when someone tells me about their pain and then says “I should not complain, it is nothing compared to what you go through.” Pain is pain not matter what, if people feel they can not share what they are feeling with me how can I feel comfortable sharing with them. Thanks for the much needed laugh.

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  • July 26, 2010 at 12:26 pm
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    Oh man, this is hilarious. I work with Penelope! I know we shouldn’t, but we all just laugh about it behind her back now.
    I know that my pain is not as severe as most, I don’t (think I) compare my pain to anyone else’s. I just focus on getting through each day with the least amount of pain possible. Except for the days that I go ride, I just have a good time on those days and deal with the pain later.

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  • October 3, 2010 at 11:13 am
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    I used to work with a ‘Penelope’! We worked in the back, nursing, of a Doctor’s office. She used to complain about the patients who would call everyday 2 – 3 times asking for lab results and more medications etc. When she had a blood test done she called her Dr just about every hour wanting the results and when they would not give them to her she went to our lab and had them pull them up for her so that she could call her Dr back and demand treatment. I had been diagnosed with RA for a couple of months and she was now being diagnosed as well. After that she would constantly come up to me and shove her hands in my face and show me her swollen joints, claim she was allergic to every medication she was put on etc. I laugh about it now because everyone knew she was trying to get my sympathy and I wouldn’t give her the satisfaction. My Mother in Law has also told me that us “Young” people have no idea what “health problems” are… I just grin and nod and think to myself that I hope she never has to learn first hand what health problems occur as a result of RA. I would gladly take her Diabetes and High Cholesterol…. Life with a ‘Penelope’!! LOL

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    • October 3, 2010 at 11:29 am
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      Thanks for sharing your own Penelope funnies, Angela. Sometimes it can be annoying but I find laughing helps me cope too. I could just imagine her poking fingers at you. LOL.

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  • October 3, 2010 at 2:27 pm
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    This really gave me a good chuckle today! I know sometime I compare myself too. But it’s the other way around. I feel like I have no right to complain because others hurt worse than I do. This really sheds some light on how silly it is to compare yourself to anyone at all! Thanks Kelly!

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    • October 3, 2010 at 2:59 pm
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      Aww. You have every right to complain. We can just all agree together that RA sux rox!

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  • October 3, 2010 at 4:15 pm
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    I find it interesting that many of those who complain the most have illnesses that have successful treatments and cures. What many people fail to understand is that RA never goes away. We don’t have a cure to look forward to. We may have treatments that help, but the fact is we aren’t going to be well, ever.

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    • October 3, 2010 at 5:13 pm
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      That is a clear point – sad but true Anita. And part of the reason RA is so hard to live with. It progresses so we can get worse, but seldom better unless there is a very good response to treatment.

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  • December 7, 2010 at 5:44 am
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    This is a great point. I see really sick beat up trauma patients, open heart patients, etc. at work. So when I have a pt that says, my pain is a 10 in a calm and collected voice, I chuckle inside. Really? But inversely, when the MA at my rhuemy’s office asks me my pain on a pain scale, I can’t even go above a 2 or 3 because I see some serious stuff at work, imagine bad car wrecks. How in the world can I complain about pain after seeing that?
    I hope that we can all remember compassion and listening are skills are difficult to gain. It takes a lot of practice.
    Now, about my wrist, it really is more swollen than yours, do you want a measurement? :clown:

    Reply

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