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Written on May 4, 2014 by Daniel P. Malito
Before we dig in this week, I just wanted to address something. A few weeks back, we announced a new storytelling series called “TalkingJoints.” This new series consisted of yours truly recounting some of the crazy antics that have befallen me while dealing with different aspects of my disease, as well as observations I have made while dealing with these situations. Unfortunately, as often happens, we did not anticipate some of the technical hurdles that putting together and serving up a show of this type entailed, and when we did, there were some shortcomings that needed to be addressed. Well, I’m happy to say that we are in the process of remedying these glitches, and “TalkingJoints” will soon be released in all its hilariously entertaining glory. Thanks for being so patient, and trust me when I say that it will be worth the wait. Your reward will be all the sweeter, I promise!
Ok, now that we’ve taken care of the daily announcement segment of this blog, we can get on with the substantive section of the column. Good thing, too, because I have a significant gripe this week, and my inner voice needs to be heard or else! Lately, while watching TV, I noticed something alarming. While there are commercials for other diseases all over the tube, there is literally nothing playing on the major channels that inform us about the plight of rheumatoid arthritis. The closest I have seen is a cartoon about Psoriatic Arthritis, which isn’t in the same boat as R.A. In fact, I’ve seen advertisements for just about every single disease and ailment out there, but never the one that really matters to me – rheumatoid arthritis.
Yes, I watch a lot of TV. Every night, there are at least three or four shows on the schedule, and there is at least one program every day that I look forward to seeing what will happen next. It’s part of what happens when you have a chronic illness; you find ways to keep yourself occupied that don’t involve physical exertion, and television usually takes up the majority of the time. Why not? It’s easy and it can be very entertaining. From the regular networks right up to the premium pay channels, there is always something to watch. Of course, we have DVR service in the house in order to help record the shows we can’t watch when they air, and being able to record two shows at once is a Godsend.
Since my cable company still hasn’t released the box that records six shows at once, we are often forced to watch one of the shows that is recording, it’s just the way the DVR works. Since it’s in real time, there is no skipping the commercials, and this is the reason that I know rheumatoid arthritis isn’t properly represented among the diseases that pepper television commercial segments. As I said, I have seen most other ailments, including but not limited to, AIDS, Cleft Palette, Harelip, Pancreatic Cancer, Pulmonary Hypertension, Diabetes, Muscular Dystrophy, Cerebral Palsy, Schizophrenia, Breast Cancer, Autism, Alcoholism, Gambling, Alzheimer’s and even treatment for laughing or crying too much. Conspicuously absent is the number one cause of disability in the United States – arthritis. Why aren’t we spending our money on making commercials that really make the public aware of just how horrible arthritis can be, just like the rest of these conditions?
Yes, as I said, recently I have seen a cartoon about Psoriatic Arthritis, but it focuses more on the skin rash than the joint pain. It is a black and white doodle that has a very gnarly looking red rash, and the commercial claims that he is getting a “double whammy,” where the rash is one of the whammies, and the joint pain is the other. The first time I saw this I immediately turned to Allison and said, “Double whammy? Where’s the rheumatoid arthritis commercial about the “sextuple whammy?” Joint pain, fevers, joint damage, lung damage, arterial degradation, muscles aches, overall malaise; we have a slew of symptoms that people don’t even realize go hand in hand with arthritis, and yet we are keeping it a secret. How hard is it to get the word out? I mean, we heard about the NSA tapping our phone calls, but yet the public still doesn’t know that R.A. can affect children? We are obviously doing something wrong.
So, in order to save the Arthritis Foundation money on a marketing firm, I have the perfect idea for a commercial and campaign that we can start tomorrow. The commercial starts with a baby with obviously swollen joints, in a hospital crib, crying, and we show children at age 3, age 7, age 11, age 15, age 18, and age 21, all with obvious signs of disease like joint inflammation, lung complications, rashes, swollen lymph nodes, kids with crutches and casts, kids in traction, kids in hospital beds, and any other shocking image of arthritis that we can muster. All this time while we are showing the horrible things that arthritis can do to children, the only thing on the screen will be, “Think you know what disease this is?” as the shocking scenes play out. Finally, show a kid in a wheelchair with a smile, and have it captioned “Arthritis – The leading cause of disability in the United States.” Then after it sets in for a few seconds it will say, “Shocked? You should be. Help us.” Then the commercial will show the Arthritis Foundation logo.
This is how we are going to get our message out there people! Not by using triathletes and golfers who beat arthritis in a few months and go back to their ridiculously active lifestyles that don’t represent the majority of arthritis sufferers, no! We need to give people a proverbial kick in the butt, and get them to say, “oh that’s horrible, arthritis can do that?” That’s why the images in the commercial need to be outrageous, and I mean scandalous. Show a child who has lost hair due to a chemotherapy regimen used to fight arthritis, show a teenager in a wheelchair watching her friends go to prom without her because her knees and ankles were damaged beyond repair, show a toddler who has to wear several braces to keep his back from misshaping; it’s horrible but necessary. We aren’t going to move anyone with images of an elderly couple riding bikes during a sunset and a sixty-something man chasing his golden retriever down the beach to play catch. These images are not only false but they are ridiculous as well. Anyone who has had rheumatoid arthritis for years isn’t going to be running around with a dog on the beach. It’s time to stop the madness!
I’m sure you can tell how frustrated I am about not seeing any commercials for arthritis. It aggravates every single time I see an ad for another illness, and even more so lately as there are now orphan diseases that are getting airtime. We are already the number one disability in the Unites States, what is it going to take for us to get our act together and start dealing with the myths and rumors that surround our ailment? I said it before and I’ll say it again – arthritis isn’t sexy. When it comes to dramatic appeal, we fall flat. Not many people die from it, it doesn’t involve boobs or boners; people think everyone gets it eventually, and even people who suffer from it don’t take it seriously. Not to mention, the Arthritis Foundation is still using the same old methods they have been pushing since J.I.A was J.R.A. It’s time to take some advice from that most dreamy of Mad Men, Don Draper. “If you don’t like what’s being said, then change the conversation.” It’s time for us to change the conversation.