Patient stories: Tomoe’s experience with RA

Meet Tomoe (トモエ, pronounced: to-mo-e). This is her story.

Tomoe is a spunky lady of 84 who prefers beer over green tea. She has three intelligent and beautiful granddaughters, the youngest of whom I was fortunate enough to call my partner.

Tomoe came to visit us in 2013. That was the first time I met her, and that was the year she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, or RA.

Her symptoms? Nothing much really, at first. Her knees hurt and she couldn’t walk very well. She had more problems walking in the morning than in the afternoon, but it wasn’t like she couldn’t walk without holding onto anything. Honestly, both my wife and I thought it was just arthritis. You know, what you’d expect most 84-year-old grandparents to get at some point or rather.

So after carefully going through a recent medical history and the other medications she’s been taking, I got Tomoe some painkillers for her knees and asked her to see her doctor when she got back to Japan.

A few weeks later, her doctor ran some tests and referred her to a specialist. That’s when we found out she had RA.

I knew a bit about RA through my background in immunology, but Tomoe and her family had no clue what’s going on. Just that all of a sudden they have to pay $20,000 a year for a drug to treat a very complicated type of arthritis.

So to bring them up to speed, I wrote a primer on what RA is, how it’s treated, and what to expect while on treatment. Check it out:


Tomoe is a pseudonym. For privacy reasons, names and photos of patients are always withheld.
Last updated: September 17, 2016.
Photo adapted from original by Mohammad Alsaihati, used under license.

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