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There is a fair amount of discussion in RA-related blogs about the comments we get from people who are unaware of, or undereducated about, RA. You know, the, “I have that in my elbow,” or “You’re too young for arthritis,” or one of our all-time favorites, “You don’t look sick.”

I’m the other way around (sort of). The question/comment I get most often is, “What happened to you?” I get asked this a lot by airport security personnel, MRI staff, and similar folk when I explain that I have an artificial hip and an artificial shoulder. I get to disclose all the metal in my body on a regular basis and when I do, it never fails to raise eyebrows. I “don’t look old enough” for joint replacement, so it usually begs the question. (As if it’s anyone’s business — maybe my ex-husband[s] beat me …)

There are other, less cordial times that the subject comes up, like when I beat on the handicapped stall in the ladies room at the office (when all the other stalls are empty) and yell, “I have an artificial hip. I’m supposed to use this stall. Get the f— out.” Not really. Well, okay, occasionally. But only when I hear someone in there talking on their cellphone when I’m doing the “I have to pee dance” outside the door. And I don’t use profanity (and least not out loud).

The point being that through these comments and questions, we are given the opportunity to educate the ignorant. Most of the time I just give the short answer and go on with life. I figure medical staff have either a rudimentary knowledge or at least the resources to learn more and I just want to get through airport security as quickly (and noninvasively) as I can.

But in “marketing speak”, we should all have an elevator and an escalator pitch about RA. Or, in 21st century terms, a twitpitch (http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/content/may2008/sb20080516_673078.htm). And let’s don’t forget the adjectives. Before anyone can start to understand anything, they need to start to feel it. Take the descriptors out of the following sentence and see what I mean: Rheumatoid arthritis is a terrible, potentially disabling disease, that affects people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds.

After that opening, you can add one or two more (concise) sentences, depending on the interest level. The second and third sentences might be, “RA can cause debilitating pain and irreversible joint damage. Although it’s incurable, there are some very cutting edge drugs that, although they have their own potentially severe side effects, show promise of slowing the progress of this devastating disease.”

So instead of fuming or rolling our eyes when we get one of those remarks, give them your twitpitch. It will provide you some satisfaction in that you’ve actually provided some valuable information (without having to think up a response on the spot) and (in some cases anyway) the other person might learn something.

I hope that whatever twits come your way are of the harmless variety. Thanks for checking in.

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