30 minutes. A lot can be accomplished in 30 minutes. You could take a shower, read some of that book you never get around to reading, watch an almost full episode of your favorite show on Netflix (Parks and Rec. if you’re me), go for a quick jog, call your friend, whip up a batch of cookies, catch up on the stats from last night’s game, and the list goes on. So believe me when I say spending 30 minutes determined to open a can of tomatoes “can” be quite frustrating–to say the least. So frustrating and debilitating that when I pulled out the cans of tomatoes required for my recipe, I literally started the task with a pep talk. It went a little something like this:

“Okay you cans of tomatoes, listen up. I need you and you need me. You want out of that can and I want you in this oh so delicious soup. Please, don’t be difficult like the can of corn I tried to open the other day. Be better than the corn.”

Yet there I stood–30 minutes later–with a handheld can opener in one hand and a large knife in the other. The recipe required three cans of tomatoes and I had opened two. At this point my determination had turned into indignation. Beads of sweat glistened along my forehead, chunks of tomatoes were splattered across my face and along the wall, tomato juices clung to my frizzy curls, all I could see was red. I laughed at the ridiculousness of the situation and then cried for the same reason. I kicked the cabinet below me and slammed the can against the countertop. I walked out of the kitchen and into the hall–took a moment, took a breathe. I prayed. I screamed.

Opening a can of tomatoes is no joke.

And that’s what people don’t understand. When it comes to being the culprit of Rheumatoid Arthritis or any autoimmune disease affecting the functions of the joints, meeting the demands of the simple tasks performed as we go throughout our daily routines becomes seemingly impossible and requires a greater deal of energy and attention. Living life, to the most basic degree, becomes a diurnal hurdle.

People hardly ever give notice to the execution of the daily chores life requires them to fulfill. They are known only as minuscule, monotonous undertakings completed yesterday, today, and eventually tomorrow. Don’t believe me? When was the last time you actually took the time to stop and think about your hand turning the key to start your car? Or the way you hold the pen or pencil you use? What about buttoning your blouse? Tying your shoe? Placing the hair tie around your ponytail? Holding the razor to shave your legs or you beard? Pulling your pants up after you go to the bathroom? Twisting a door knob? Shaking someone’s hand? Putting your shoes on your feet? Using your arm to prop up your head? Unscrewing the cap off of a water bottle? Washing your hair? Opening a window? Getting the itch right behind your shoulder? Walking down those stairs you walk down everyday? Lifting the lid off of a container? Unbuckling the straps of a car seat for a small child? Removing your wedding ring before you wash your hands? Opening a can of tomatoes?

We–the victims of swollen hands, fat toes, popping knees, shoulders that carry around invisible 50 pound backpacks, and other torments from joint inflammation–think about these things EVERYDAY. We fear them. We despise them. We wish they would go away. Behind every shoe we tie, hand we shake, etc. there lies pain and with that pain, the utmost amount of vexation.

Autoimmune diseases are real. Thousands of people face them every minute of everyday. According to cdc.gov, an estimated 52.5 million adults in the United States were told by a doctor that they have some form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus, or fibromyalgia. An even staggering statistic, an estimated 294,000 children under age 18 have some form of arthritis or rheumatic condition; this represents approximately 1 in every 250 children in the U.S.

So, to my readers out there experiencing similar physical tribulations, I understand what you’re going through. I hear your silent cries. Hang in there. Remember, everything has purpose and the Lord loves you. You can always draw on him for strength.

And to my readers blessed with bodies free from inflammation and a broken immune system, next time you meet someone who says their hands hurt them or run into a friend you know with arthritis or a similar condition, I hope you will stop and think about what they may be feeling. I hope you will hug them and remind them how much you care about them. You may not know exactly what we are experiencing, but sympathizing can still speak wonders. There is no cure for arthritis in its many forms, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus, or fibromyalgia. However, I believe and am convinced love cures just about anything and everything. Please, be grateful for the body God has blessed you with. Take advantage of your mobility! After all, the last time you opened a can was probably done with little effort and scarcely any thought and that, ladies and gents, is a blessing in and of itself. ❤

With love,

Kelsey With Some Jo

8 thoughts on “What People Don’t Understand: Living with an Autoimmune Disease

  1. Boy I’ve been there! I have lived your article and I know your pain.

    I was diagnosed in 2000, but went undiagnosed for 10 painful years prior… I dearly understand your what you’re going through. Sounds like you are now in a really bad flare. Oh how I hate those. If it wasn’t for medication, I would have lost all mobility within my hips, both shoulders, nearly every major knuckle in BOTH hands, and oh my poor feet. I’ve been on crutches, used a cane. My kids have wheeled me in a chair… it’s no a picnic.

    Doing rather well for the time being though, but this darn illness is so systemic. It is short of deadly, if not treated correctly. I hope you are seeing a Rheumatologist, because my joints were deteriorating so badly before I was diagnosed, and put on a biologic. Even now, I still hurt (complaining to my hubby tonight even).
    I have come light years from how bad I use to be.

    Even still… I detest hearing some ask, “How are you?” I tell my closest friends to please NOT me on the spot. I much rather they say they’re GLAD to see me, which picks me up and always seems to make feel a bit better. Socially, there will be people who still ask me that. I just tell them I am fine… and remind myself it’s only a greeting. Like your article’s title says it’s always remain to be something… What People Don’t Understand — Most Warmly, Sharon


    1. Hello Sharon!

      Thank you for your response. I am sorry to hear you went as long as you did undiagnosed. I remember the first couple of months before my diagnosis being confusing and discouraging simply because I did not understand what was going on with my body. I am happy to hear you were able to begin some form of treatment and become somewhat “normal” again!

      I actually did begin treatment with Methotrexate after my diagnosis, but after three months of my weekly injections the side effects became more debilitating than the arthritis itself. Today, one year later, I am actually not taking any medications at all. I am on a rather strict diet (e.g. gluten-free, dairy-free, low sugar, etc.) and supplement daily. I have been gluten-free for a year; however, this week marks the fourth week trying the new, more restrictive diet. Somedays I feel great and others not so much. I am trying my best to stay positive while I wait for the dietary changes to fully go into affect. My diet plan came from a book I read called “Healing Autoimmune Disease: A plan to help your immune system and reduce inflammation” by Sandra Cabot MD and Margaret Jasinska ND. Feel free to check it out! I highly recommend it.

      Thanks again for your response and taking the time to read “What People Don’t Understand.”

      Take care,
      Kelsey ❤

      P.S. I am GLAD to hear you are doing better. 🙂


  2. Hahaha I like your dance session. Your cup even more cool. Organic can sugar ? Woh 🙂 meds ? I’m sorry about to hear your disease…. wow york love you but I love your hairs hahaha :p ahhh the pose of camera was set. The sun lights sights are beautiful. Like to watch you. Nice light stretching moves. You seem nice. Ohh you have notes. Hey I am new to blog. You seem good teacher hahaha if you like to help please share your experience and tips with me. I would always be curious to hear from you. 🙂 keep it up

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes! I have some knowledge of this. I have systemic scleroderma. When I first got it 18 years ago I was really pretty crippled with joint pain and due to the skin thickening had a lot of difficulty moving my hands. Then I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. They could not do radiation due to the scleroderma. so I had a major surgery and was re worked and rewired. Then something odd began to happen. The scleroderma symptoms began to fade. I now have only very slight symptoms. The rheumatologists say I have the answer to the disease but they don’t know what to test for yet. I hope that before I am dust they will know and then I can be of use. I am grateful to be alive and to be getting older. Keep on going, one day at a time. Thank you for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! I cannot believe you may be the answer to diminishing something as complex as an autoimmune disease. Thank you very much for sharing! I am touched by your story and am happy to hear with time your symptoms for the Systemic Scleroderma subsided. It is interesting how my symptoms too have subsided with time and treatment, but my mind has become accustomed to pain and loss of mobility that I often times feel my symptoms are being conquered by its strength more than anything else. I am defeating the disease in many ways! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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