Arts & Life Editor

“Sh*t,” I say as the medicine enters my upper thigh. Click, click, the pen goes as the clear liquid empties from the first compartment of the device.

The liquid in the pen is called Humira, a TNF blocker that suppresses the physiologic response to tumor necrosis factor. This factor is known to cause inflammation in areas of the body. Humira is supposed to help reduce the inflammation and pain brought on by Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).

Humira’s use for treating RA is becoming more common with the convenience of it coming pre-filled and it’s easy administerable design.

It’s my fourth time injecting myself with Humira, but the experience remains the same.

Step 1, swab the area of your choice. Your stomach or your leg, either option sucks but I opt for the lesser of two evils every single time.

Step 2, take the gray cap off the needle end of the pen and place this side on your leg.

Step 3, remove the red cap from the opposite side, exposing the button to inject the medicine.

Step 4, push the button to release the medication and await the inevitable sting.

I received my RA diagnosis when I was 16 years old. RA is an autoimmune disorder that attacks synovial tissue around the joints. This attack on the tissues causes pain, swelling and discomfort among countless other symptoms. If not treated, the tissue will be devoured completely by the body, resulting in bone against bone.

As soon as my family members became aware, I started hearing, “Aren’t you too young to have arthritis? It’s an old people disease; but you don’t look sick; can you tell me when it’s going to rain?; well hey, at least you’re not dying!” far too often.

If there was a book titled Things not to Say to an Arthritis Patient, the statements above would be in the first chapter.

No, it’s not an “old person’s disease.” According to the Center for Disease Control, various forms of arthritis affect 70,000-100,000 children under the age of 16. And while no national study has been conducted, short-term studies in the U.S. estimated roughly 4,800 to 11,000 new cases of childhood arthritis, defined by being younger than 18, every year.

RA is a silent disease, for the most part. I’m not in a wheelchair, I’m not losing all my hair nor am I dropping pounds left and right. My swollen hands remain hidden to most. However, if I were to let you into the confines of my private life, you’d see me struggle to wash my hair, button my jeans and run like I used to.

I’ve had a lot of people make light of my disease. Just last week I was asked to predict what the weather was going to be so that one of my friends could decide whether or not to have a pick-up soccer game. I’m used to it, but sometimes the comments still sting as much as the Humira.

Since the book Things Not to say to an Arthritis Patient hasn’t been written yet, allow me to say this: when it comes to hidden diseases, find a map before you get lost in your own ignorance.