Jessi P—St. Louis, MO
We are so lucky to have Jessi representing us in St. Louis, MO! Jessi came to us thru a web search when she was looking for a support group and then she came upon AI! She was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2014 and then was gifted fibromyalgia. Jessi is BIG on awareness and she doesn't want anyone else to ever have to suffer without arming themselves with knowledge. A little bit about Jessi; she grew-up in Missouri, she loves sports and has two children; a boy and a girl. Besides representing us, being a full-time parent, wife and advocate, she works a full-time job at a local utility company. Amazing. To a newly diagnosed person, Jessi's best advice would be to never give up. Tomorrow is a new day! Learn about your diagnosis and be your own best advocate.
Word Association Game
- AI: Support, Love and Acceptance
- Flare: Exhaustion Support Group: Friendship
- Chocolate: Martini
Barbara G—Columbia, SC
Barbara came to us thru an internet search. She was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and Sjogren'ssyndrome back in 2008. She is a nurse practitioner, which, she admits, gives her the ability to help others. She works at a gun manufacturing plant and helps treat folks as a nurse. Working as a nurse practitioner at the plant is perfect, as far as she is concerned, because she loves to shoot in her free time as a hobby. Barbara was born in New York but spent most of her life in South Carolina. Barbara says that if she where to give advice to a newly diagnosed person, she would tell them to educate themselves as best you can! Try to accept it and be informed- it will help you start your healing journey.
Word Association Game
- AI: Positive attitude. AI is NOT just Arthritis support it's for arthritis related autoimmune disease.
- Support Group: Connection, Positivity and emotional bonding. Great place to share your own experience and help others.
- Flare: You can do it!
Ruby N—Chicago, IL
Ruby found us when she was at a Juvenile Arthritis Conference, with her son, this past summer in Phoenix and that's where she met Kevin! Ruby's son was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis when he was 7-years-old and Ruby, herself, was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2006. Ruby was born in Chicago and is a real Midwestern gal. Ruby wanted to become a support group leader because she wants to encourage folks to not bite their tongue! She wants folks to trust their instincts and if a treatment plan is not working, ask for something different! Be your own best advocate! Ruby also spends a great deal of time volunteering in both of her children's schools. She really loves old movies from the 30's, 40's and 50's and her favorite actor from that time period is Cary Grant (swoon). Ruby wants folks to know that her inspiration and strength for getting involved with AI and AF is her son.
Word Association Game
- Support Group: Support
- AI: Family. Like coming home....
- Flare: Turns my world upside down
- Chocolate: YUMM
Candice D—Chicago, IL
Chicagoland is a happenin' crew with Candice and Ruby taking it on! Candice is amazing because she is originally from New Orleans but has relocated to Chicago and works for American Airlines. Currently, she works various shifts as she learns about different positions within the company so her schedule, as of recently, has been a bit wacky. Candice was 23 when she was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease but even after that, it took a few times (that's an understatement) to get properly diagnosed. One piece of advice that Candice would recommend to anyone who is newly diagnosed would be to always get a second opinion. She has a pet hedgehog named Mr. Frodo. She also loves traveling, photography, music and crawfish.
Word Association Game
- AI: Support
- Arthritis: Pain
- Chocolate: Lots of things, but mainly cookies
Robyn A—Tuscaloosa, AL
Robyn is a 41-year-old working mother with two awesome teenage boys who help her out a lot. She works for a very busy local rheumatology clinic where she has done a little bit of everything from new patient referrals, insurance verification, and front desk receptionist. Robyn was diagnosed with JRA at 15 years old after a year of what she now refers to as the year of ’weird’ where her body didn't know what to do anymore. Robyn loves a great conversation and is an experienced Netflix binger. She cannot get enough Alabama football in the fall and loves to cross stitch whenever she can.
Casey B—Tuscaloosa, AL
Casey is 30 years old and was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2008. She enjoys painting and coloring. She conveys she can't do everything she could before but she tries and does most of what she can. Casey is on disability so she’s home all the time. She hasalways wanted to help people and is happy to have this chance. Casey wanted to become an Arthritis Support Network Leader because initially she didn't realize there was help and support for someone like herself until she attended the Gathering Conference G9. The overwhelming support and friendships shemade in that one weekend made her realize a Support Network had to be set up in Alabama for people with arthritis. Casey gives this advice to the newly diagnosed. "Your life is not over. It might slow you down a bit, but you can get through it. It won't be easy. You just have to be strong. Arthritis Support Network help a lot. They are like family. Support groups don’t have to be like ‘poor pitiful me’. They can give you hope and a realization of the fact that you are not alone.”
Word Association Game
- Flare: Hope and pray it's not a big one and will pass quickly.
- Chocolate: Prednisone and 15lbs
Renee C—Chicopee, MA
Renee is the leaderfor the Arthritis Support Network in Chicopee, MA. The purpose of the Chicopee group is to provide a fun, safe, empowering place for people living with arthritis and other rheumatic diseases.Renee been living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) for nearly 30 years. She was diagnosed when she was 16 years old. She received her first total joint replacement at 26 years old. Since then she has had 12 major surgeries to help combat the destruction caused by RA.
Renee has been taking a biologic medication since 2000 and it has helped immensely to keep her RA under control. While being diagnosed with a chronic illness at a young age has been difficult at times, it has made her a more compassionate person. Renee enjoys helping other people and finds much joy in giving back to her community. Renee is excited to be a leader for an adult peer led support group for people living with arthritis and other rheumatic diseases. She currently also leads a group for people living with depression and/or bipolar disorder. Renee feels this experience, along with her personal health background makes her a good fit to be a support group leader for people with arthritis. Renee is medically retired and spends her time with family, friends, and volunteering. Sheenjoys meeting new people and making new connections. When she was working, sheworked as a healthcare consultant. Shebelieves this aspect of her background will help her to develop interesting educational programs for the Chicopee Arthritis Support Network.If you are living with arthritis and its related rheumatic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis or osteoarthritis, and you live in Western Massachusetts, you are welcome to join the group! Renee says, “We here for you whether you have been living with RA like me or are newly diagnosed and you don't know where to start! The Chicopee group is all about support, education, and empowerment in a fun-loving, positive environment!”
Michelle H—Houston, TX
Michelle is a native Texan and a mother of two. Her journey withpsoriatic arthritis began in early 2012. In her everyday life, Michelle, works full time for a multi-specialty group of physicians as a primary nurse to a wonderful doctor whom she loves and respects. Michelle has a 20-year-olddaughter and a 16-year-old son. She enjoys bowling, gardening, reading, cooking and spending time with friends and family. Michelle believes that this is the right time for her to reach out to others and create a support system that will serve her community and beyond. She believes that coming together and sharing ideas, stories, coping skills will only serve to strengthen everyone on this journey. Michelle gives this advice for newly diagnosed folks. "Educate yourself! Prepare! You may always have questions and sometimes there are no solid answers. Read. Advocate. Educate. Be open to learning any and all waysto improve your life. You can live a bountiful life with your diagnosis. Never give up hope!"
Word Association Game
- AI: Information, education, wellness and a camaraderie like no other.
- Support Group: Help and Information
Karen H—Downeast Maine
Karen was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2012. It came on suddenly and painfully. Up until then she had been pretty healthy and active. Karen had osteoarthritis in her right knee so, in 2011, she had a knee replacement so she could continue to play golf.With the onset of rheumatoid arthritis, Karen has not been able to play again.....YET! That is still her goal. Her biggest frustration has been not being able to get on the floor and play with her young grandchildren. “Well,” She laughed “I could get down there but getting up would not be pretty.” Through it all Karen has tried to maintain her lifestyle and my sense of humor.
Karen in an RN and considers it a great career. She cannot imagine havingdone anything else. She has done 'floor' nursing, education and middle management. Middle management was her niche and she loved it. Her communication and people skills went along way to help in that work. My journey with RA has been typical: pain, frustration, limitations, need for support and the struggle to find the right med regimen. I have vowed to not let it define who I am nor keep me from doing what I like. I look forward to sharing and learning with others. Karen is a people person and enjoys meeting new folks and believes the support groups will be a great way to find and give support with others.Karen’s goal is to offer a place for those folks with rheumatoid disease and all forms of arthritis to come and share their stories and successes. Life has so much to offer. Karen feels that we can help each other face arthritis head on.
Nomi is an Arthritis Support Network Leader and the Program Coordinator for Girls on the Run of Central Maryland. She has a BA in English from Bradley University and a certificate in Clinical Mental Healthcare from UMUC. Nomi will be doing blogs for AI relating her own personal journey as an RA warrior in the hopes that you find yourself saying; "me, too".