How Sally-Jo Changed Her Outlook

While pushing through her arthritis pain, Sally-Jo started thinking about turning things around for herself and for everyone around her.

Sally-Jo Bakken wasn’t always a hopeful person while battling her arthritis pain. But she decided to turn the tide, shifted her frame of mind and is now helping others who are going through something similar.

As a child, Sally-Jo’s ankles were enormously swollen. It was hard to write with a pencil. And things just didn’t feel right. But she kept pushing through the pain. Ultimately, she was diagnosed with childhood rheumatoid arthritis (what’s commonly known today as juvenile idiopathic arthritis) at age 13.

“I just plugged along,” Sally-Jo remembers. “My mother had her own challenges and just pushed through things. So, I think I’ve gotten that from her. You just keep going.”

A Change of Heart

After marrying her husband Ken, Sally-Jo recalls a time of reckoning. “I was having an arthritis flare and a really tough time. After I came home from work, my dad would often call me just to chat.

“One night, he called and said, ‘You are so grumpy all the time. It doesn’t make me want to call you much. You’ve got a choice to make: You can sit there and be grumpy, but you’ll be sitting by yourself. Or you can be more pleasant, and you’ll have a lot of people around you who care.’”

Her father was right, Sally-Jo realized. “You don’t really have a choice in this battle. You can have great people around you, but they’re not going to be there long if all you’re doing is complaining.”

After Sally-Jo and Ken’s son Joel was born, she remembers that he adjusted to her limitations. “He would wrap his arms and legs around me and adjust his weight just right so I could pick him up and carry him. He knew exactly what to do.”

“One day, I had him in the car seat and I couldn’t get him out,” she continues. “He was giving me instructions on how to get him out. There were challenges like that. But I guess there were more challenges for him with me having arthritis than there were for me.”

Supporting Jingle Bell Run Is a Family Tradition

Sally-Jo says what’s most important to her about supporting the Arthritis Foundation is the organization’s push for deeper research and advocacy efforts to make proper health care more affordable and accessible. “It’s heartbreaking to not be able to afford the drugs that are going to make you feel better,” she says. She and her husband also support JA camps run by the Foundation for kids with rheumatic conditions, so they can have fun while learning how to better manage their own health.

In addition, Sally-Jo and her family are big supporters of the Arthritis Foundation’s Jingle Bell Run in Bellingham, Washington, which has become one of their holiday traditions. Her large Jingle Bell Run team, named Sally Jo’s Peeps, has raised more than $20,000 over the past four years.

“Jingle Bell Run is an important part of our year for us,” she says. “It started out as just an informal ‘Who wants to do this?’ And suddenly we had Jingle Bell Run scarves and a banner. And we are one of the top fundraising teams. We’re just friends and family. We don’t have a big corporation behind us.”

Every sponsor of the Jingle Bell Run, from local to national, makes the Arthritis Foundation’s work possible. AbbVie is National Presenting Sponsor of the 2022 Jingle Bell Run. AbbVie has supported the Arthritis Foundation’s work since 2007, providing resources for newly diagnosed, juvenile arthritis and psoriatic arthritis patients, as well as the Foundation’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)-focused programs. In addition, AbbVie has earned the Arthritis Foundation’s Ease of Use certification seal for their prescription medical devices and pill bottle.

AbbVie also salutes people like Sally-Jo for her passion and commitment — and everyone else who keeps our work going strong.

Sally Jo’s husband says: “The word I’d use to describe Sally is determined. If she sets her mind to it, she’s going to figure out how to do it.”

Her response: “My passion for life has been living it to the fullest that I can. It’s not about arthritis. It’s about us as people. And with Ken by my side, we’ll do it.”

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