Arthritis Self-Managment Program - Volunteer, British Columbia
Tania, a resident of Vancouver, was officially diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis at age18. Now that she is older, she recognizes that she has come a long way when it comes to coping with her diesease.
"I am a volunteer with the ASMP and ASMP for Young Adults. I really enjoy taking part in it because I get to meet others who have arthritis and learn about the different types of conditions that people have (since there are so many types). It also motivates me to set goals and objectives to take charge of my condition in a supportive environment," she tells us.
"Without The Arthritis Society, I wouldn't be able to manage my condition in the way I do now. Through my meetings with the staff and volunteers there, I have been able to get connected to a wealth of contacts and resources. There are so many people with arthritis and it is not always visible. By supporting The Arthritis Society, I can help to spark important conversations about arthritis and spread resources to those who need them."
Nathalie Robertson and Christa Reccord
Arthritis Self-Managment Program Instructors, Ontario
Nathalie Robertson and Christa Reccord, both residents of Ottawa, are two women with one mission: to make arthritis information and education accessible to working people.
"Arthritis hits hard," says Nathalie (pictured right). "I found that I couldn't be who I was after being diagnosed. I had to reorder my priorities. But it's important to let others know that life doesn't end with arthritis, even though it is different."
As instructors of The Arthritis Society's Arthritis Self- Management Program (ASMP), Nathalie and Christa share vital coping skills with people living with the disease. By juggling this volunteer work with their busy careers and family responsibilities, they make these classes available to people after business hours—an option that was not available when they were diagnosed with arthritis.
"The Society helped me learn so much about my disease. I know how empowering knowledge can be," Christa adds. "It's always gratifying when someone tells me the difference that ASMP has made to their life."
Joints in Motion Participant, British Columbia
Arthritis can strike anyone at any time. Just ask Elaine Alec, who was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) at the age of 22. The onset of her RA led to months of pain so severe she often could not get out of bed, dress herself or take care of her child.
"Living with arthritis can be lonely, scary and devastating," the Penticton, B.C., native recalls. "At my worst, I wondered whether it was worth carrying on."
Those days are now a distant memory. Seeking help, she turned to The Arthritis Society for information and support. Becoming an active member of her treatment team, Elaine adopted healthy eating habits, learned self-management techniques and engaged in physical activity to take control of her arthritis.
"It wasn't until I completed a half marathon in Jamaica for The Society's Joints In Motion program that I realized how far I had come. Without The Society's resources and help, I don't know where I would be today. My life is forever changed because of everything this organization did for me."
Dr. Proton Rahman
Society-Funded Researcher, Newfoundland
Dr. Rahman knows the fight against arthritis won't be won overnight, but he sees much hope for the future.
"As an arthritis researcher, I'm working toward a day when we're able to identify patients with severe forms of the disease at an earlier point and offer them the medications they need to avoid permanent joint damage. An early diagnosis and optimal treatment is vital to quality of life," says Dr. Rahman, a rheumatologist and genetic epidemiologist at Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland. Significant progress has already been made.
The Society-funded Spondyloarthritis Research Consortium of Canada, of which Dr. Rahman is a lead investigator along with Drs. Walter Maksymowych, Dafna Gladman and Robert Inman, found a gene that is a risk factor for ankylosing spondylitis.
"This discovery will allow for an earlier diagnosis. Attention can now turn to finding treatments to block the gene's effects. The Arthritis Society supported all phases of my training and continues to be invaluable to my ongoing research."
Advocate, Prince Edward Island
Colleen Murray and Sarah Drew know all about persistence. They drew on it to help organize a motion of support for The Arthritis Society that was passed unanimously by the P.E.I. Legislative Assembly in the spring of 2011.
"When you're vying for the attention of a politician or prominent personality, you have to be both patient and determined," explains Sarah, Community Development Coordinator for The Society's P.E.I. Division (pictured left). "The groundwork for this motion of support came when I invited the leader of the opposition, Olive Crane, to our annual Christmas Carol Breakfast."
"Advocating for a cause can be a grind, but you get out of it what you put in," says Colleen Murray, head of the P.E.I. Division's volunteer Advocacy Committee (pictured right). "Our provincial leaders have strongly endorsed The Society's mission and promoted awareness of the challenges Islanders with arthritis face, including timely access to rheumatologists and required medications. That's a pretty good start for establishing arthritis as a major health concern for the whole country."
Youth Ambassador Volunteer, Ontario
People often perceive arthritis as a disease for the old, but Dax Law knows firsthand how wrong that assumption is.
"I have severe juvenile arthritis. I have had this disease since I was very young," says Dax. "Since my diagnosis at the age of seven, I have undergone many different therapies and treatments – splinting, casting, joint injections – and countless medications."
For many families, a diagnosis of juvenile arthritis can be frightening and confusing. In the face of a possible lifetime of illness, Dax and his family reached out for support.
"I have had the support of The Arthritis Society since I was diagnosed. They referred me to doctors at Sick Kids Hospital and have made sure that I received all the treatment I needed. They informed me and my family about my disease and helped us cope with the stress and worry that came with my inability to participate in everyday physical activities as a child."
Dax has come far since his initial diagnosis, overcoming the physical barriers that he once faced. At age 15 he learned to ride a bicycle, and then learned to pole-vault. Next year Dax will be entering his first year of University, where he will continue to advocate for children and youth living with arthritis.