Arthritis Support Network Leader(s)

Shelley Fritz

The goal of Arthritis Introspective is to improve the lives of adults living with arthritis and rheumatic diseases through wellness education, empowerment, and support groups.

FL - Tampa Bay

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Arthritis Support Network launched: 2017

Arthritis Support Network Leader:  Shelley             Type of Arthritis: Rheumatoid Arthritis

About this Arthritis Support Network:     

My vision for this group is I want to collaborate with other Arthritis Introspective participants to build a support network in my area that is patient-centered and seen as a welcoming family for others to join. My vision is to recruit others with arthritis that can learn from each other and provide information to share from within our support group and from community members we seek to broaden our knowledge and ideas about topics like nutrition, exercise, devices to make daily life easier, and advocacy. As we grow in membership, I foresee having multiple groups to accommodate for location needs. I'd love to see Arthritis Support Networks in the four quadrants of the Tampa Bay area but we'll take it one step at a time!

About: Shelley

My name is Shelley and I’m excited about starting up an Arthritis Support Network in the Tampa, Florida area. I’m the mother of a teenager and a college student. My husband Rob is my rock. We live with two very strange cats and a highly energetic rescue dog named Apollo. After years of symptoms and visits to specialists, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Celiac Disease almost simultaneously at the age of 42. Two autoimmune diseases out of nowhere turned my world upside down. It was a bit of a relief to get a diagnosis though and to begin to understand why my body was attacking itself causing me daily inflammation and pain. I started reaching out through social media and website searches for any information that could help me better understand what was happening with my body and what my future might hold. I was scared. I felt alone and misunderstood by family and friends who suggested I use this oil or ingest this herb to make my pain go away. How could I be so young to get arthritis? How quickly would my RA progress and would medication work? Did I have to stop teaching children? At the time, I didn’t know much at all about arthritis. Within weeks I had far too much information and I was overwhelmed at the possible treatments and lifestyle changes I had to make. I wish I had a support group to go to then. My rheumatologist suggested I visit the Arthritis Foundation website along with several other websites, and it was through those searches that I found networks of people I could relate to and who would help me enormously along my journey.

Finding Arthritis Introspective has changed my life. This family is comprised of so many amazing people, each with a story to tell that helps to see arthritis with new lenses. It has been six since my diagnosis and I have continued to work full-time teaching adults and elementary children but it has not been smooth sailing. I have needed to reach out frequently to others for support and to figure out how to best manage family and work with fatigue and pain. All of these changes I’ve gone through have impacted my family along the way and it has made us more aware of each other’s needs.

I would like to lead a group because in the first years of the onset of my disease I had trouble letting others jump in to help me. I thought I was supposed to do it all and it was very difficult for me to let go. I know there are other people living and maybe struggling with arthritis in my area of Tampa Bay. While social media is great, having a local group to share with and to learn from would encourage face-to-face connections among us. I’d like to bring people together who have forms of arthritis to share what we’ve learned to help us make life easier and bring in speakers who can offer insight. A support group is needed here. We are a large, diverse area and I am confident that there are many people with insight to share to benefit others.



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Meeting Location and Times: 

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