Magic in the Movement
Darlene’s Rheumatoid Arthritis Story .
July 3, 1968. After 49 years, Darlene still remembers this date as if it were yesterday. That morning, she woke up with her entire body in excruciating pain. “I didn’t know what was happening to me. Everything around me was a blur. All I could focus on was the pain and swelling in my joints, shoulders, hands, knees, and feet,” Darlene recalled. At just 19 years old, she knew what she was feeling was not normal. She had to see a doctor immediately.
During that first visit to see her doctor, Darlene, from Rochester Hills, Michigan, was left with unanswered questions, continuously struggling to find definite answers to what was causing her pain. She spent the next two years working with her healthcare team to uncover the cause of her pain, finally learning she had rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Relieved to finally have a diagnosis, Darlene continued to have issues with her disease, this time with not only the pain she was feeling, but also with difficulty finding the right rheumatologist. After being diagnosed by her primary care physician, she faced a long and arduous journey in search of the right rheumatologist. Thankful to finally have found a rheumatologist, she continues to see this same doctor today.
“With the help of my current rheumatologist, I learned how to manage my disease in a healthy way. I was able to go back to work full-time and care for my family. The difference was night and day. I know well the importance of truly partnering with my healthcare team to better understand my diagnosis,” said Darlene.
Darlene has always had a desire to support her community. So, when she learned she had RA, it was natural for her to try to combine her love of giving back with helping others who were suffering with RA. Darlene explained, “Being an active member of my community is not just a hobby, it’s a part of who I am as a person. Through my own personal experiences, I realized there was an educational gap when it came to RA. I made it my mission to help others become more aware of this chronic debilitating condition, including its symptoms, impact on daily life, and how to develop coping tips.”
Working with the Michigan Partners for Arthritis Education (MPAE), Darlene participated in a program focused on encouraging patients to be their own advocates by better understanding their RA diagnosis and identifying their best path forward. The MPAE also hosted events at universities around the country designed to educate medical students about RA.
Now retired from her job as an accountant, Darlene enjoys taking care of her family and spending her days as a coordinator for the MPAE, serving as a public speaker educating others about RA – something she’s remained passionate about for more than 20 years.
Darlene has no plans to stop advocating for herself and others. She explained, “My hope is that I can continue to help others find ‘magic in the movement’, to push through the physical and emotional challenges that come with living with RA and to actively engage in educational programs about the disease so people suffering from RA can get back to the activities they enjoy while managing their symptoms in a healthy way.”
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the tissues of the joints, causing inflammation, pain, and eventually joint damage and disability.
Rheumatoid arthritis impacts more than one million Americans.