The Mighty Logo

When a Stranger Said She’d Kill Herself if She Had My Disease

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

About two months ago, I was getting my regular blood test since I have rheumatoid arthritis (RA). It was busy on this particular day, so I struck up a conversation with the woman sitting next to me to pass the time.

I noticed she had exercise gear on so I asked her what she does to stay fit. We chatted about the gym and the exercises we each do.

She then asked me why I’m having blood tests done (I saw her eyeing the ankle brace on my left leg.) I told her I have rheumatoid arthritis and explained briefly what it is. This was her response: “Rather than going to the gym, you’d be better off killing yourself. That’s what I’d do. I’d kill myself if I had what you have.” I’m normally quick off the mark with comebacks, but I was so shocked I couldn’t respond.

While I might not have been able to respond at the time, I decided to even out the universe with some good karma, particularly since those same blood tests showed for the first time in two years my RA was in remission!

After a lot of thought, I decided to do some fundraising for rheumatoid arthritis research. Less than a month from now, I’ll be participating in a 226-kilometer team indoor Ironman challenge, which includes a 4-kilometer row, 180 kilometers on an exercise bike and 42 kilometers on a cross trainer.

I can’t do a traditional Ironman event because of my joint pain, but that’s kind of the point. How I do something in life may not look the same as the next person, but my life certainly has value, and there’s a lot I can contribute to the world. Unfortunately, there will always be people in the world who will be quick to judge, but I’m proud I took the opportunity to turn hate into hope.

Alana Schuurs the mighty

Words matter. Please be careful when using suicide-related language. And if you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a moment when you were at a hospital and a medical staffer, fellow patient or a stranger made a negative or surprising comment that caught you off guard. How did you respond to it? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our “Share Your Story” page for more about our submission guidelines.

Want to celebrate the human spirit? Like us on Facebook.

And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.

Originally published: July 6, 2015
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home