“Arthritis, The Silent Family Member”, my personal illness narrative, was first published in 1996 in a co-authored book: Beliefs: The Heart of Healing in Families and Illness by Lorraine M. Wright, Wendy L. Watson, and Janice M. Bell. New York, NY: Basic Books.
I was 5, almost 6 years old, when the reality of illness entered my young life. My youngest sister and illness arrived together. My maternal grandmother was the temporary caretaker during my mother’s postpartum confinement, and I recall she and I had very different ideas about the rules of my home. When my mother returned home after the customary 10-day hospitalization following childbirth, I expected life would finally return to normal. Unfortunately, my mother experienced her first disabling attack of rheumatoid arthritis, and her bedroom became a sickroom into which she disappeared for a long time. I remember a series of visitors and many home remedies undertaken to no avail. Thirty-nine years have gone by since the onset of my mother’s illness and she continues to have active disease as evidenced by an elevated sedimentation rate, progressively deformed joints, and much chronic pain. Until recently, however, I have not been aware of the cost of this illness to my mother or to our family.