When Australian Open winner and former world No. 1 tennis player Caroline Wozniacki revealed she has rheumatoid arthritis in late 2018, a wave of empathy and validation washed over the RA community. “Wow. Even her, too?”
The following year, Wozniacki retired from tennis, noting that her RA diagnosis was not a factor in her decision to retire from the sport.
Three things happen for us when a public figure opens up about a diagnosis and shares the fact of their chronic illness with us.
First, they help to destigmatize the disease. The condition becomes more visible and relatable. Suddenly, we see our friends and family changing their attitudes toward our condition, and even toward us.
Second, we feel more hopeful and inspired in our own life. Knowing that a celebrity or professional athlete is facing the same day-to-day struggles we do, all while under the glare of stardom, we are more endeared toward them. We especially feel a connection when they use their voice to bring visibility to rheumatoid arthritis.
Finally, we feel empowered by the will of public figures to step forward and take control of the narrative about their condition under intense media scrutiny. When they show the world what it means to live with RA, they offer a roadmap and inspire confidence for how we might do the same.
Whether famous or not, the public acknowledgment of one’s disease is a brave act in the face of the stigma of chronic disease. As rheumatoid arthritis awareness spreads, acceptance soon follows.
Is there a notable person who has inspired you? How do you feel about celebrities discussing their condition? Share in the comments below or directly on myRAteam.