I have spent the last 40+ years living with chronic illness. Just before my second birthday, I was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.
While my childhood involved routine bouts of pain and suffering, I was able to enjoy my life immensely, making the most of the “good” days and minimizing the impact of the “bad” days.
My doctor had always stated that RA would likely go into remission and that if I didn’t have symptoms when I turned 18, the disease should not follow me into adulthood. I enjoyed a lengthy period of remission that lasted from age 14 -19.
Just as I was having the time of my life as a sophomore in college, I was blindsided by a sudden and devastating recurrence of RA symptoms. I was both bewildered and angry to learn that despite my doctor’s prediction, I would be living with RA for the rest of my life.
I knew how to live with a chronic illness as a child, but dealing with the reemergence of RA just when I was spreading my wings and having a fantastic time as a young adult was not part of my plan. And it was MUCH more difficult for me to cope with as an adult.
The transition was even tougher because I was trying to balance college and a very active social life with taking RA medications with some pretty rough side effects and being in constant pain. But I did successfully make that journey.
At age 25, I became the youngest person in Georgia to undergo bilateral total knee replacement surgery due to RA. It was definitely a life-changing event that brought a new era of pain relief.
In my early forties, I was presented with an opportunity to learn additional skills: How to live with both ulcerative colitis (I knew I should not have used that “buy 1 autoimmune illness, get one FREE” coupon) and fibromyalgia in addition to RA, while managing a career, and being a wife and the mom of a young, energetic daughter.
And while dealing with chronic illness is certainly a full-time job, it did not stop me from achieving my goals. After earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in psychology, I’ve spent 20+ years in the healthcare industry with roles in marketing/public relations and patient advocacy and both mental health and vocational rehabilitation counseling.
BeChronicallyWell is the culmination of my life experience and my professional skill sets. What I want most to achieve is to teach YOU how to enjoy a better quality of life regardless of the symptoms and circumstances you are facing.
I know that chronic illness can lead you to feelings of sadness and hopelessness. I know it’s not fair that you have one (or more). And I know that at times you are utterly miserable, both physically and psychologically. But, I also know firsthand that you can learn coping skills and management techniques that will return to you some control over your body and your life. And once you build up your arsenal of strategies and tactics, you will experience more overall happiness and fulfillment.
I am married to a wonderful man who helped inspire me to create this site. I’m also a proud adoptive mom of a little girl who has taught me so much about what is truly important in life. In addition, I am grateful to have so many friends and family members who have been there for me during my toughest times.
Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you.