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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What happened to our first RA Support Group? Where was everyone?

     So a few nights ago, on a rainy, windy cold spring evening I launched what I hoped would be the first RA Support Group for the Rutland region.....notice I said "hoped would be the first".  I arrived at the meeting site early, set up 12 chairs in the round, had my attendance/sign in clip board, agendas, group guidelines, etc. all ready to go.  I glanced at the clock and I still had 10 minutes to spare till the 6:30 PM start time, so I sat back to relax and wait for all of my soon to be new RA friends to arrive.  Some time passed and I once again glanced at the clock which now read 6:40 PM and still no one!
     Finally, at 6:45, in walked the first and only participant for the "first RA Support Group meeting for the Rutland region".  She looked around and said "Is this the place for the RA Support Group?" a very reasonable question since no one else was in the room! I said "Yes it is, I'm Nan and you must be ____".  She said yes, smiled brightly and we embraced like old friends because we had spoken on the phone just a few days prior.  It was really just luck that she even knew about the meeting...she had a free local paper laying in her driveway a week ago and she picked it up, scanned it and saw the announcement.  She called me and I confirmed the time and place and she indicated she would be coming.  She has a distinctive Boston accent so when she arrived at the meeting and asked her opening question I knew immediately who it was.
     Well, for the next two hours, until 8:30 PM we laughed, shared and just generally enjoyed chatting until we both looked at the clock and said, "Holy cow, it is probably safe to assume no one else is coming and we should probably wrap this up".  At that point I did not want to commit to another date so I assured her if I decided to try again I would let her know.  We discussed some reasons why folks may not have come and went over things like the time, the weather, etc. to try to explain the lack of participation.  
     I have to admit, after all of the planning, marketing and effort I was discouraged and wondered what if anything I could or should have done differently.  I honestly do not know.  I wondered if it was because people feel that it is a private battle they are waging and discussing it publicly is more than they can handle.  Could it be that newly diagnosed folks are simply "not ready" to reach out and be in a group just yet?  I thought perhaps I was totally off base and maybe folks really all have their RA so completely managed that they don't need the support of a group.  I was simply at a loss and still am, frankly.  
     The next day, and even later that evening I had a few emails and Facebook posts from people who planned to attend but for one reason or another did not.  I felt a bit better but still was surprised at the poor (can you say disastrous) turnout.  After feeling sorry for myself for about an hour or two, I decided to try again!  One more time and then if it still does not gain momentum I will consider this a good lesson learned and move on.
     I also took the time to reflect on the wonderful new friendship that I now have as a result.  Despite the fact that it was only the two of us, we talked nonstop for two hours - turns out we are very close in age, amount of time with RA, she has 3 children as do I,etc.  Then, the commonalities we have when it comes to managing the disease began to emerge!  She too finds the unpredictability the most difficult aspect to deal with.  She also relies on laughter for additional relief when she feels discouraged.  She, like me, believes in the absolute necessity of exercise in coping with RA. Our treatment choices differ and it was so interesting hearing her perspective.  We both are strong advocates for our own treatments and she also does lots of research, staying on top of the latest developments.
     So, looking back it really was not a failure at all but rather a different result and one that has led to a new friendship that I hope will continue to grow and last for a long time to come.

1 comment:

abcsofra said...

Don't let this discourage you. You found one friend that may be a lifetime friend from all of your work. Problem with ra is that it can be so unpredicatable and I know with me...I hate to make any commitments because I may not feel up to it that night, day or even that hour. As you know this disease can come on us like a truck just rolled up and we have no control over it. I am not saying this is the reason for every no show but with so little energy to go around they may have had to decide to place their small quantity left somewhere else that evening: kids, family, resting, etc. Keep up the great work!!!