VA - Hampton Roads

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Arthritis Support Network launched: 2017

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

About this Arthritis Support Network:   

I want this support group to be a trusted, safe place for our participants to be able to share their struggles and concerns but I also want the group to be a place where they leave renewed and empowered like I did when I came home from the ASN Gathering Conference. I want us to have fun, learn new things and face life together as we live with arthritis.

About: Kristin

Hi, my name is Kristin and I am the Arthritis Support Network Leader for the Arthritis Support Network in Hampton Roads, VA. Together we are creating a Fun, Empowering, and Supportive Community and Network of People Living with Arthritis and Rheumatic Diseases.

Over the past 18 years living with Rheumatoid Arthritis I have longed for a local support network where I could receive support and offer the same support to others living with chronic illness. Recently I have been asked by friends and family to speak with others who have been newly diagnosed and to offer them some education and encouragement. Then in June 2017 I was given the opportunity to attend the 10th Annual Gathering Conference, which was life changing for me! To be able to live life with others who had the same disABILITIES as I did was empowering and I did not come home the same. Before I left the Gathering I approached Haydee Sedlmeier about starting a group of my own. Why continue to wait around for someone else to start a group in Virginia Beach when I could do it myself. So here I am!

What makes me qualified to be a group leader? Although I was diagnosed with RA when I was 27 years old I have struggled with joint pain, stiffness and fatigue since the age of 6. It wasn't until my mid to late 20's that various joints started to freeze and I started having trouble with everyday tasks such as dressing myself and tying my shoes. I was seen by 3 different doctors before I was finally diagnosed with RA and began my first treatment of combination therapy. I experienced 3 blissful years in remission on the first treatment. There were even times when I forgot I had RA. Then in 2008 I slowly stopped responding to the therapy so we moved on to new treatment plans. Since 2009 I have been on 4 different biologics and 5 different forms of combination therapy. In 2013, my doctor and I decided it would be in my best interest to "medically retire" from retail security since the disease had become too difficult to control. Not "working" was difficult for me at first but now I use the same passion I put into my career into advocating for people living with arthritis. I have been an ambassador for the Arthritis Foundation since 2016 and have attended the past 2 Arthritis Summits in Washington, DC. I am also a member of the Virginia Advocacy Committee and the Virginia Step-Therapy Task Force. In 2017, I was proud to be chosen as the Adult Honoree for the Virginia Walk to Cure Arthritis in Richmond.

Advocacy work has given me a new purpose. I am committed to helping others who are living with or newly diagnosed with arthritis and/or rheumatic diseases. If I can make someone else’s journey easier by sharing my experiences and offering encouragement then I'm all in! I believe knowledge is power. One of the first things I did when I was diagnosed was go to the library (no google back then) and check out every book I could find about Rheumatoid Arthritis. What I was reading was so overwhelming and, truthfully, scary that I could only read a few pages at a time. Now there is so much information available on the internet I can't imagine navigating all of it alone.

Over the past 2 years, my friendships with others in the arthritis community have become vital to my mental and emotional health. Not because we sit around and feel sorry for ourselves together but because we share, listen and lift each other up. There is also an empowerment that you get when you realize, "It isn't just me. I'm not alone!" It can be difficult balancing life with a chronic illness but you are not alone! There are others who know exactly what you are going through and we can learn so much from each other about living life with a chronic illness. That is what I hope this group to be. Sharing, listening and lifting each other up as we navigate life with chronic illness together!

I am leading an Arthritis Support Network for several reasons. 1. We have 4 large Rheumatology practices in my area yet, until recently, I knew no one else with RA in Virginia Beach. 2. Though I have a lot of friends with arthritis/rheumatic diseases all over the country I have always longed for a support network that was local. 3. Over the past few months I have been approached by friends and family who have asked me to speak with someone they know who was recently diagnosed. I was able to offer them information about the disease along with emotional support. 4. After coming home from the Gathering I knew in my heart that I was supposed to facilitate a group locally. and 5. I use to keep my diagnosis to myself because I worked for a private security provider and the RA would have been looked at as a weakness. When I did trust someone enough to share with them they either talked about me behind my back (I've been called a pill popper.) or they would joke me to my face (I had someone make a joke about my hands during a flare.). I want people in my area to have a safe place to share and learn so if that means that I need to start this group to make that available then that's what I'm going to do. 

Contact: 

To join this Arthritis Support Network, please click the  "Join this Group” button above and we will send you updates about upcoming events via email. 

Meeting Location and Times: 

Head over to the Calendar of Events to RSVP your attendance.

Complete details with location and times will be posted on this website and cross promoted to our Arthritis Support Network -  Hampton Roads, VA Facebook Page. Please like and follow us!

Activities: 

All subscribers to this group agree to adhere to the Support Group Participant Guidelines.

Arthritis Support Network Leader(s)

Kristin

Goals

Arthritis Support Networks provides personalized help and support to adults living with all types of arthritis and rheumatic conditions. Our programs offer opportunities for connection, education and empowerment via support groups and conferences.

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