WEGO Health Bloggers/Writer's Challenge 2016 - Day 7 - How I chose to start my Advocacy Work & How I felt when I made that decision

Day 7 - WEGO HEALTH Blogger/Writer's Challenge 2016

"How I Chose to become an "Advocate" & How I felt about that decision"

I had really already been a "voice" in many ways well before I was diagnosed with RA, Lupus and Sjogren's. Before those came into play, I suffered with Migraine's from the time I was 17 years old.

I was also wanting to be in the medical field almost all my life in some way. Early in life, my thoughts were on becoming a nurse. As time went by, I married, had my son, then a few years later, remarried, and had my daughter, the idea of going to school full time in order to become a nurse was almost impossible. I was mainly the "bread winner" of my home, and my paycheck really needed to be there in order to pay for the house, car, and for all that my children needed as they got older. 

I had a chance when the kids were around early teen years to go to Nursing School full time and it be completely paid for by the hospital I was working at, in the Business Office. I did pass #1 on the Exam to get in, but then it was the "money" issues, of me having my paycheck completely cut out for at least two years, that made me have to decline going to college full time. Although I took classes at night and got my Associate Degree in more of a business light, the medical field has always been in my "blood". 

I seemed to "absorb" all things "medical" in nature. After being formally "diagnosed" first with MCTD, then soon that changed into Lupus, RA, DDD, DJD, Raynaud's "Hyper-joint mobility", Sjogren's and that list grew on, I then "knew" first of all, the Heart Attack I had at 40 years old, had to have something to do with the RA and Lupus. Although when I was 40, I was the "picture of health" ate properly, exercised daily, watched every type of food I ate, was the exact weight I should be, yes, I had a heart attack. At the time the doctors said the huge amount of stress I was under had caused it, which I am sure played a role, but I was SURE back then, that my Migraines, joints issues, that had already caused me to have several major joint surgeries, plus other things in my health that just did not add up, yet not one doctor took me "seriously" for another 10 years or MORE, before I finally got the diagnosis of "autoimmune disorders". Thus at 50, I suffered another heart attack. 

Now, back to my advocacy work. I was already writing a book about my "health issues". The doctors that had been great, and those that treated me like I was some "air-headed, over anxious blonde" because as we have come to find out "Chronic Pain and Illness can often be UNSEEN by others in our lives - Invisible to those around us, even physicians". 

Back then women were also kind of considered "off the wall", depressed, anxious, stressed and that ALL of their "illnesses" were basically psychosomatic, rather than being looked upon as most men were. A man walks into the ER or doctor's office complaining and they are taken seriously. Back then and still it happens, woman can do the same, and we get the answer YOU need a "shrink"... this has changed for the better and does not happen as much, but back then most women were just "crazy", when they complained, especially of pain. 

So, when I became interested in finding out how I could get MY voice heard, other than my writing, I turned to Facebook to do some research. I also began doing searches on the different illnesses, diseases and syndromes, and came to find out there was an entire realm of "advocacy" places, where the PATIENT'S VOICE was CRUCIAL!

No longer was it just the professionals that were hailed upon for answers, but us, those that suffered with these diseases had a voice in groups, by jointing some of the organizations, and even going right up to Washington DC (which I had long said I wanted to stand at the White House Steps and TELL MY STORY) ... and I came to find out, that is exactly what patients were doing! That the Arthritis Foundation, WEGO Health, the Lupus Foundation, the IFAA, and so many other of the non-profits were "enlisting" us, everyday, regular patients to tell our stories, and move those that could help us by money for research, by giving people access to clinical trials, helping to get our voices to the experts, thus that is what I did.

I dove in head first, to a couple of organizations, and I was excited, thrilled, terrified, star-struck, and scared all at the same time! When I was able to attend the Arthritis Foundation's "Capitol Hill's Annual Summit" and DID GET TO tell my story to some of the Congressional men and women, I truly felt that I had accomplished a greatness. That is when I also wanted to tell everyone else, that they TOO, right from their home and computer, can also make their voices heard. They are important, and crucial to making the diseases stand out, where we can get answers, get proper diagnosis', get the care, medications and specialists we need in order to survive all of the horrid illnesses, we've had to endure for much too long.

#HAWMC

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