Could You Spell That?

It seemed like a formality.  She didn’t expect an affirmative answer when asking “Any new diagnoses since your last appointment?”

Umm… yes.  Spondyloarthropathy.

The MA’s head shot up, eyebrows raised.  Her pen poised abover the clipboard, she glanced back at my chart then looked at me once more.  “Could you spell that?”

S – P – O – N – D – Y – L – O . . .

“I’ve never heard of that before.  Something to do with your back?”

The MA didn’t snap, “I’ve never heard of that,” challenging its existence.  She nicely asked it as an opportunity to learn something new.  Now, as I write this, I wonder if perhaps I should have explained a bit.  Obviously, with the morpheme “spondy,” there’s involvement of the spine.  But there’s more to it, and someone who specializes in fixing shoulders ought to know about a disease that’s correlated with calcium deposits in the rotator cuff (among other things).

With all the stories I’ve heard about patients who don’t know the names of their diagnoses or meds, let alone more details, it seemed strange to be asked if I could spell it – for it to even cross the MA’s mind that there was a possibility that a patient might know something.  When I left that I appointment, I thought again how lucky I am.  My doctors listen to me.  The same can be said of their employees.  They’re polite and respectful and helpful and informative, and have never implied that it’s my brain that’s malfunctioned.

Yes, I can spell.  That’s one thing that autoimmunity hasn’t stolen from me.  If anything, it’s increased my vocabulary.




RANK Ligand




certolizumab pegol/Cimzia
tocilizumab/Actemra   (all those …ab’s make me think I should start doing sit-ups)



enthesopathy   (more here and here)


supratentorial – okay, thankful I’ve never heard this from my doctors; just a vocabulary lesson thrown out by Doctor D


What cool words has RA added to your vocabulary?
Can you spell them (without looking them up)?


6 thoughts on “Could You Spell That?

  1. When I visit my cardiologist, I’m often asked to explain things about my RA; likewise when I see my rheumy, she frequently has questions about my heart. I’ve never thought of it like that, but you’re right. I am lucky my doctors respect my intelligence and trust me enough to ask ME for answers sometimes.

  2. Someday I would like to have a conversation with another RA patient in front of my friends where we can just casually (and fluently) throw around all the big words we know! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  3. I couldn’t help myself with my science background…here are some more (and I have to look some up to spell them sometimes!)

    tumor necrosis factor (TNF)
    NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug)
    singular nucleotide polymorphism or SNP (the part of a gene that may contain links to diseases like RA)
    NF-kappaB signaling pathway
    osteoclasts (bone cells gone wild in RA)

    Great post that made me realize that we live in a world of highly specialized terms. A fried of mine has Ankylosing spondylitis – inflammation of the spine and hips.

    It’s actually MABS…meaning monoclonal antibodies which are generically engineered. Most of the biologicals are MABS.

    • Good list 🙂
      I hadn’t heard the term MABS before, nor NF-kappaB. Amazing how we learn a whole new language as we’re trying to follow along and understand what’s going on in our bodies.

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