I’m very excited to be part of this photography project and to hopefully help shine some light on a complex and often misunderstood chronic, inflammatory illness that affects about 1.3–1.5 million people in the United States: rheumatoid arthritis (RA). My goal is to connect with others and, through my passion for photography, capture what it’s like living with this disease.
Original photograph provided by Angela Lundberg
I’ve found that a main problem of RA is trying to explain to others how the illness affects every aspect of one’s life. It’s not a temporary sickness or injury that you just “get over.” RA can be unpredictable and a life-long companion that impacts your relationships, family, work, social life, and any other possible thing that might pop up in life. Since I was diagnosed with RA more than 20 years ago, I have continued to struggle with the isolating effects of the disease.
People who don’t have RA themselves can’t truly understand how the pain of RA touches one’s life in so many ways—big, small, and always surprising. When your RA symptoms may not be visible from the outside, it can be difficult for others to grasp that you’re dealing with joint pain on a daily basis. People usually don’t see past your appearance. For example, your colleagues may not realize the challenges you might go through just to drag your throbbing, inflamed body out of bed each morning.
“My goal is to connect with others and, through my passion for photography, capture what it’s like living with this disease.”
Traveling is another situation in life that often forces one with RA to just “grin and bear it,” despite silently loathing long security lines that cause agony to swollen joints, and bulky luggage that grows heavier and more painful by the second. Yes, traveling can be difficult and tedious for many people, but having RA can amplify that stress. You’re surrounded by strangers who don’t realize just how much more challenging it is for you to make it through airport security because you may not look sick. They don’t realize that before you even made it to the airport, the stress and fatigue of simply packing the night before almost made you wish you had called the whole trip off.