Every week, The Friendship Files features a conversation between The Atlantic’s Julie Beck and two or more friends, exploring the history and significance of their relationship.
This week, she talks with a group of parents whose children all suffer from the same rare disease—Wegener’s granulomatosis (also known as granulomatosis with polyangiitis), a chronic illness that causes inflammation of blood vessels which can affect organs such as the lungs and kidneys. The parents found one another online after their kids were diagnosed, eventually forming a support group on Facebook that now has about 100 members. In this interview, five of the group’s members discuss how they formed a “backwards” friendship—bonding over the toughest things in their life before they got around to small talk.
Rohini Chandrabhatla, 51, a CPA who lives in Reston, Virginia
Jennifer Hoggan, 53, who’s studying addictions counseling and lives in Coronado, California
Camille Mark, 55, an inspector for the Canadian Grain Commission who lives in Prince Rupert, British Columbia
Danielle Miller, 41, a social worker who lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee
Shari Solis, 39, a retired counselor who lives in Northglenn, Colorado
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Julie Beck: How did you find out that your kids had Wegener’s?
Jennifer Hoggan: It really manifests differently in individual cases. I think of us on the phone call, all our kids were diagnosed with growing pains [at first].
Beck: The growing pains were the first symptom that you noticed, not necessarily realizing what it meant?