Rheumatoid Arthritis

Arthrits and Golf in Cincinnati

Playing golf well is not easy. Neither is living with arthritis. I know firsthand about the challenges of golf— I want to shoot under 80, but I don't...yet.

I know a little bit about arthritis from a personal perspective (I have some osteoarthritis in my back), but mostly I know how difficult it is to live with arthritis from the experiences my patients share with me. Each day people who live with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and gout must determine to get up, exercise, work, play, have relationships, and enjoy life. And just as the game of golf has its ups and downs, its moments of success and times of disappointment, life with arthritis can certainly be unpredictable.

But we push on, we keep trying new approaches and working hard. Because it's worth it. Golf is only a game, whereas living with arthritis is serious business. But both can be fun, full, and rewarding, if we keep trying. Or, we can give in, settle for bogeys rather than pars, focus on our disease rather than our health, and miss the joy of the journey.

I'll Hold Your Arthritic Hand even if You Can't Hold Mine

Renoir, Aline, and Coco, 1912Renoir, Aline, and Coco, 1912At the time of Dr. Fritz's first visit with her patients, she explores their social histories. Taking a comprehensive social history is a critical part of being a good physician. Why? Because social histories—family relationships, social relationships, work, hobbies, pets, activities, exercise, habits, etc—tell physicians a lot about their patients; social histories are a window into patients' presenting problems and offer a glimpse into the structures that will support the suggested treatments. 

That's what I think about when I gaze upon this image of the French impressionist Auguste Renoir and his friends. I mean, look how frail he is as a result of the limited treatments available for Rheumatoid Arthritis in the early 1900s—Renior is slumped back in his chair, his feet are bound in braces in an attempt to slow their deforming, his hands are gnarled. 

And yet he has these very nice people with him. 

I like to explore the body language in this image...first of all, I like it that they're all outside in the fresh air together. Both the child and the woman lean in toward the artist...it's not, however, as if they're propping him up. I get the feeling they simply gravitate to him. They gaze in his direction, and they're both smiling at Renior rather than at the camera. Nice. And the child wears a hat exactly like Renoir's hat! Seriously, that's love, isn't it? And the ample woman in the polka-dotted dress covers Renoir's knotted hand with her own wide one.

What a fortunate man Renior was—all the while he lived with Rheumatoid Arthritis, he continued to do work he loved while sitting outside in the company of young people and a wide woman who love him. 

To Work in the Shade of a Wide Umbrella

Reader, welcome to this blog's first post. I hope you find the blog informative, insightful, interesting, (and other things that don't necessarily begin with the prefix "in"). We'll cover a lot of territory here. 

So, we begin with Pierre-Auguste Renoir, the famous 19th-century French impressionist who worked for over 60 years and created beauty (some claim he painted about 6000 pictures) all the while living with Rheumatoid Arthrtitis. 

Fortunately, 21st-century artists who live with RA have unbelievably more treatments available to them than Renoir; but it's not the thought of Rheumatoid Arthritis I want to leave with you. Rather, it's the thought of Renoir's "can-do" spirit that impresses me. We can hardly expect to live our lives without disease—and we have little control over that. Perhaps all we can control is how we structure healthy, productive days while living with the diseases that will accompany us. 

I encourage all of those living with disease,  and you, too, Reader, to seek fresh air, to work in the shade of a wide umbrella, to feel the comfort of a blanket draped across the shoulders, and to wear fashionable hats. And to do beautiful work.

Notice how Renoir holds his brush cupped between his twisted hands. Remain inventive. 

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