When I was 17, I was told I wouldn’t live to see my 21st birthday. My immune system and vital organs were taking a hit from the impacts of psoriatic arthritis — a condition I’d already battled for many years.
And over the last three decades, I’ve had no choice but to learn how to not only manage my condition, but also to live a full life. Like a science, I’ve nailed down how to go about an active routine that involves yoga, meditation, photography and regular exercise — even stand-up paddle boarding. It’s not all fun and games, but fortunately, I’ve had support from the Arthritis Foundation to help battle against my pain.
Building my pain management toolkit
In my free time, I stay active with yoga, walking, Pilates and stand-up paddle boarding, as well as meditation, acupuncture, massage, guided imagery and aromatherapy for pain management. I’ve found that having several tools in my toolkit — some of which were inspired by the e-book, “60 Ways to Fight and Prevent Pain,” for staying active while managing pain — has been really important in maintaining my health overall.
To everyone living with chronic pain, I recommend using the Arthritis Foundation’s tips for making a pain management plan guide for getting started. This approach has helped me set goals and stick to them, while allowing me to customize my plan when unexpected pain creeps in.
For example, on days when I’m in a lot of pain, I know to scale back my yoga or SUP workout or to weave in other supportive measures like Epsom salt baths and heating pads. Having a variety of tools, resources and proven pain management techniques helps me be prepared for any challenges that arise, even if it means changing my plans.
Influencing change for good
One of the driving reasons why I’m a patient advocate volunteer with the Arthritis Foundation is the difficult time I went through as a child. At the time, there were no quality medications available to help treat my arthritis and related comorbidities. I want to make sure no one else ever has to experience what I went through in the early treatment stages.
I am so fortunate that today I have access to quality health care and the ability to afford it through my employer’s insurance. Thanks to innovations in medicine, I feel I have been given a second chance at life. I want everyone going through a difficult time with arthritis to feel hopeful that they, too, can get a second chance.
In my volunteer work as an advocate, I meet with legislators to help them understand the wide-reaching impact they make on various health care-related initiatives. It’s empowering to realize how one story — my story — has the power to influence change for good and give others hope. It’s what I love about being a patient advocate and why it’s my life’s mission to continue the work.