These Hands

These hands unite us
They do not define us
Or prevent us
from being who we are

We are young and middle aged and old
We are male and female
We painfully thin
We are over weight
from the pain
from the meds
from inability

We are athletes
and authors
Painters, actors and politicians.
We are parents and siblings and children
We are not ashamed
We are not invisible
we are not the silent minority/majority
we are the hands
taking the places
of the hearts
and toes
and faces
of RA

See us for who we are
See us for what we CAN do
not for what we are no longer able to do

Take my hand
virtually or really
Walk gently with me
See me for who
I really am

I ride the train with you
every day to work or school
I sit across the meeting table
and take notes
I pour you your coffee
make your change
bag your groceries
pump your gas
entertain you with golf or tennis or movies and humor
I am anyone and everyone
and I will no longer be invisible.

These hands are painful hands
sometimes they are twisted and deformed
others inflamed  from my disease or from my treatment
still others appear
absolutely normal
but all are autoimmune arthritis hands
and all want you
to understand.

27 thoughts on “These Hands

  1. Thank you…This is beautifully written and says so much about all of us suffering from RA. It can take so much from us, it takes the person we were before we were diagnosed and before our disease got worse and affected our lives so deeply. I thank you for posting all of this. Maybe it will help me deal with where I am in my life right now. It’s not a good place and I need to get past it. I am really missing the vibrant, active, happy, employed woman I used to be before my conditions (RA & Fibro) got the better of me and took that woman away. I just don’t know how to get her back, but I will somehow, someway.

    Thanks again.

    • I don’t think we “get passed it” we just incorporate the “it” into our new reality.
      Hugs… and a virtual hand and shoulder…

      • Thanks, the “it” I need to get past, is the loss of the person I was. I can’t be that person again…the person who could go 18 hours a day and get up and do it again is no longer there and I really miss her. I need to find the part of her that I was without the 18 hour days and with the incessant pain and loss of control of my joints,etc. You know what I mean. I just am having a really, really hard time of it right now and it is just difficult and I don’t know how to get past it, or through it. But thank you for your comment, maybe I do just need to incorporate who I lost into who I am now, if I can. Thanks again.

  2. This is beautifully written! I too am a part of the Show Us Your Hands project. So proud to call you my RA.brothers and sisters!

  3. What a beautiful poem and what a time to read it. I have recently gone through a divorce after 30 years of marriage and have had to give up some of my health coverage. Therefore I have had to ween myself off of some of my medications and the pain has been unbearable. I couldn’t have read this poem at a better time. It reminds me that I am not the only one suffering with all this pain. Before the divorce, I was lucky enough to have a short time of almost no pain, for that I am thankful. I don’t know what the future will hold for me, but your poem has truly inspired. Thanks!

    • I’m glad that it helped. I’m sorry, Wendy, that you have to be going through these hard times, but I’m glad that it helped some. I hope you can get back to a place where you are nearly pain free again.

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  5. This is a beautiful poem! It expresses beautifully how many of us feel about our hands. No longer being invisible is what so many people with autoimmune arthritis desire. And sadly, sometimes those in the health profession see us only as our disease and a number to hurry in and hurry out. I’ve been blessed that my last rheumy and my pain doc are not like that. But, I’ve experienced it with others. And in public, because of my wheelchair, I’ve had some awful treatment. I’ve had store staff, when I am asking a question, address their answer to my husband who was pushing my wheelchair. Needless to say that got me a bit unhappy. So many times, my best friend who also has RA and has a lot of hand involvement has had trouble with store clerks just tossing her change and receipt at her. Or not being patient when she is trying to pay them. My hand involvement isn’t as extensive and only in the last 3 yrs has gotten to the very noticeable stage. I worked with a pretty observant boss for at least 3 years before he noticed the scars from my hand surgery. He had noticed that despite the fact I don’t type “normally”, I have adapted and type fairly quickly despite only using 2-4 fingers. I couldn’t use the home keys when I was learning to type because my hands didn’t allow me to stretch my fingers the way I needed to so that I could reach all of the keys with the “proper” fingers. It took some discussion with my typing teacher in school, but eventually she relented and allowed me to adapt as I needed. I’m rusty now after not typing much in the last 3 yrs while I was at the nursing home, but there were a few times I was helping various staff members with something on a computer and almost all of them were amazed at my typing and how I’ve had to adapt and how quick I was typing despite my hands. I laughed and told them if they thought that was good, they should have seen me before being there when I typed daily. I was up to between 75-90 WPM depending on how I felt and all. But no longer. It’ll take me some time to get back to that, but hey that’s ok. Because while I was in the hospital before going to the nursing home, my fingers all drew into as much of a fist as my hand makes and then my wrist pulled my fist down so that my hands were directed toward my wrist. Then my elbows contracted so that my fists were almost resting on my shoulders. I had to be fed, and well everything else had to be done for me. Slowly everything relaxed except for my pinky and ring fingers of my left hand. They didn’t relax until my OT at the nursing home used E-Stim and hand exercises to help it. I don’t have full range of my pinky still, in fact the DIP joint is permanently bent. But, the rest of my fingers are back to my normal, swan-necking, hyper-extension, ulnar deviation and all. Our hands are all beautiful in their individuality!

    • You know, it’s funny. My rheumy doesn’t rush either. And, reading the “comment on area doctors” web pages, people think it is great that she takes time with THEM but if she occasionally runs late to their appointment because she is dealing with other people it really irritates them. I think that is really sad. Having a doctor that will talk to you and who will take the time to LISTEN to you (mine even listens to what isn’t about my RA) really matters.
      Most people, if they notice my scars or if they know about my surgeries, talk to me about them and ask how I am. One.. uh… individual… at work talks about how much I scare her all the time. Really? I scare her? Because my body isn’t as pretty and perfect as hers? And in the next breath she whines about how everyone at her gym thinks she has been pregnant for the last three years. People can be crass.
      I’m lucky. I can still type reasonably well. Some days when I get done (or sometimes when I get less than “done”) my hands are really angry with me and I end up putting on tiger balm and fingerless glovies… or toughing it out.
      Our hands (and our stories… I want so much to tell the stories) are all individual and yet are our unifying factor.
      We are what we are and if nothing else, we need to have understanding… from everyone.
      Hugs! I’m glad that you liked my poem…. I’m glad you took the time to talk to me. Thank you.

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  8. Hello. Just wanted to let you know I read your poem about hands and I loved it!! I hope you don’t mind, but I shared it with some other people I know that also have RA.(I gave you credit, of course and directed people to your lovely website.) I am 29 years old and have had RA and scleroderma for 10 years now. It’s nice to read something that relates to me so closely and to know that I am not alone. 🙂 Thanks again. Lovely poetry.

    • I’m glad you liked it. I think that you can’t have too much information to too many people. Share with as many as we can touch!
      You’ve had RA and scleroderma for ten years? You were so young. Damn. I keep realizing how “lucky” I am to not have had to deal with this adventure until middle aged.
      Gentle internet hugs.

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