The Arthritis Community Gave This Family Hope and Strength — and They’re Giving Back

Every family has challenges. But for most, they aren’t as life-altering — for better or worse — as they have been for Sarah and Mike Cloud and their son, Chris. By a quirk of fate and genes, each of them has a different form of arthritis.

As they speak in a video chat, a delivery driver arrives at their door. It’s two of their three biologic medications, Sarah says, laughing.

Sarah has had 37 broken bones in her lifetime of playing sports, a hip fracture that cut short her military service, plus other mishaps. “I could walk on air and break something,” she kids. She was warned early on that those injuries would likely set her up for osteoarthritis (OA), so she wasn’t too surprised when she started having aches and pain when it rained or the temperature changed.

Chris’s Diagnosis
The Clouds’ first experience with inflammatory arthritis came when Chris, then about 12 years old, woke up one morning with severe pain in his leg. “I skipped school and got in a lot of trouble for that,” recalls Chris, now 23, “And then about two days later, my parents noticed my knee was swollen to the size of a balloon.” After nearly two years of misdiagnoses and wrong treatments, he says, “A doctor I go to for a completely different issue said, ‘I think you have arthritis.’” That led to a quick diagnosis of enthesitis-related juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) and treatment.

Like so many people, Sarah says, “We didn’t know kids got this.” The doctors in their rural Utah community hadn’t seen it either. “I do know, because of Chris, other children in our valley were not misdiagnosed, because we were so vocal in the beginning.”

Chris’s JIA became common knowledge in their community, and a couple of years later he was nominated as an honoree of the Arthritis Foundation’s local Jingle Bell Run. That launched the family’s extensive involvement and volunteerism with the Foundation, including Juvenile Arthritis (JA) camp and the National JA Conference.

Their first JA Conference was life-changing. “I try not to cry when I think about that one,” Sarah recalls. “To walk into that hotel that day and see all those kids everywhere. My child was not in a wheelchair, he did not have braces, he wasn’t on a cane, he wasn’t limping, so right there we were 10 leaps ahead of the other families. But I was in tears because we had finally found people like us, and that meant the world to us.”

Mike Finally Finds Answers
It was also one of these conferences that led to Mike’s diagnosis. “I pretty much my entire life had back pain, swollen knees, swollen ankles,” and other symptoms, he says. But he always chalked it up to his work in construction and other strenuous jobs.

At the conference, they were talking to a presenter about Chris’s diagnosis when she asked, “Which one of you carries the gene?” The idea that it might be genetic led Mike back to his doctor, who ran tests and diagnosed him with ankylosing spondylitis.

Sarah’s Journey
Sarah noticed around 2014 that her joint pain felt like something other than OA. Her back and hands gradually had become more painful and started going numb. She eventually had to stop driving buses for a living and was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). By then, though, she was already in college studying how to help herself and others navigate the health care system — something she already had plenty of experience with.

Sarah had been the teachers’ union rep for her district when she learned she could get a free college education and earn her associate’s degree. When she spotted a “patient navigation” study track, she thought, “I can do that. I kind of already do that.” It covered issues that her family had struggled with, from finding wrap-around care to understanding medical billing. She got an associates of business management in health care finance, and it has already paid off, such as when Mike was billed incorrectly for a series of MRIs.

The Clouds continue to be dedicated supporters of the Arthritis Foundation and our mission to help others live well with arthritis. Sarah and Chris have cochaired Jingle Bell Runs; Chris was involved with JA camp; and Sarah helped build a parents network, served as advocacy chair in Utah until their recent move to Missouri and worked on planning committees for JA Conferences. She is also a Platinum Ambassador and serves on the Patient Leadership Council.

“The Arthritis Foundation has been rewarding. They’re our people,” Sarah says. “We’ve had our community of arthritis families and the Arthritis Foundation stand behind us every step of the way.” Finding that community changed their lives, she says, and they want to help change the lives of others. “We don’t ever want another family to have to go through the two lonely years we did thinking that nobody else’s child has this.” —JILL TYRER

Read more about Sarah’s journey to become a patient navigator.

From Dec. 1 through Dec. 31, your gift will be matched – dollar for dollar – by CBDMedic. That means that your donation can go twice as far to find better treatments and cures for people living with arthritis – people like the Clouds.

I Want to Contribute
I Need Help
  • Donate

    Donate

    Every gift to the Arthritis Foundation will help people with arthritis across the U.S. live their best life.

  • Volunteer

    Volunteer

    Join us and become a Champion of Yes. There are many volunteer opportunities available.

  • Live Yes! INSIGHTS

    Live Yes! INSIGHTS

    Take part to be among those changing lives today and changing the future of arthritis.

  • Partner

    Partner

    Proud Partners of the Arthritis Foundation make an annual commitment to directly support the Foundation’s mission.

Donate


Ways to Give

Every gift to the Arthritis Foundation will help people with arthritis across the U.S. live their best life. Whether it is supporting cutting-edge research, 24/7 access to one-on-one support, resources and tools for daily living, and more, your gift will be life-changing.

Make a Donation

Help millions of people live with less pain and fund groundbreaking research to discover a cure for this devastating disease. Please, make your urgently-needed donation to the Arthritis Foundation now!

Become a Member

Become an Arthritis Foundation member today for just $20. You'll receive a year's worth of Arthritis Today magazine, access to helpful tools, resources, and more.

Make a Honor or Memorial Gift

Honor a loved one with a meaningful donation to the Arthritis Foundation. We'll send a handwritten card to the honoree or their family notifying them of your thoughtful gift.

Gift Planning

I want information on ways to remember the AF in my will, trust or other financial planning vehicles.
 

Volunteer


Volunteer Opportunities

The Arthritis Foundation is focused on finding a cure and championing the fight against arthritis with life-changing information, advocacy, science and community. We can only achieve these goals with your help. Strong, outspoken and engaged volunteers will help us conquer arthritis. By getting involved, you become a leader in our organization and help make a difference in the lives of millions. Join us and become a Champion of Yes.


More About Volunteering

Live Yes! INSIGHTS


Give Just 10 Minutes.

Tell us what matters most to you. Change the future of arthritis.

By taking part in the Live Yes! INSIGHTS assessment, you’ll be among those changing lives today and changing the future of arthritis, for yourself and for 54 million others. And all it takes is just 10 minutes.

Your shared experiences will help:

- Lead to more effective treatments and outcomes
- Develop programs to meet the needs of you and your community
- Shape a powerful agenda that fights for you

Now is the time to make your voice count, for yourself and the entire arthritis community. 

Currently this program is for the adult arthritis community.  Since the needs of the juvenile arthritis (JA) community are unique, we are currently working with experts to develop a customized experience for JA families. 

How are you changing the future?

By sharing your experience, you’re showing decision-makers the realities of living with arthritis, paving the way for change. You’re helping break down barriers to care, inform research and create resources that make a difference in people’s lives, including your own.

Get Started

Partner


Meet Our Partners

As a partner, you will help the Arthritis Foundation provide life-changing resources, science, advocacy and community connections for people with arthritis, the nations leading cause of disability. Join us today and help lead the way as a Champion of Yes.

Trailblazer

Our Trailblazers are committed partners ready to lead the way, take action and fight for everyday victories. They contribute $2,000,000 to $2,749,000

Visionary

Our Visionary partners help us plan for a future that includes a cure for arthritis. These inspired and inventive champions have contributed $1,500,00 to $1,999,999.

Pioneer

Our Pioneers are always ready to explore and find new weapons in the fight against arthritis. They contribute $1,000,000 to $1,499,999.

Pacesetter

Our Pacesetters ensure that we can chart the course for a cure for those who live with arthritis. They contribute $500,000 to $999,000.

Signature

Our Signature partners make their mark by helping us identify new and meaningful resources for people with arthritis. They contribute $250,000 to $499,999.

Supporting

Our Supporting partners are active champions who provide encouragement and assistance to the arthritis community. They contribute $100,000 to $249,999.