What a month it's been! Thank you for following along for this month's series interviewing some of our Fight Like A Warrior community members for Autoimmune Awareness Month.
To round out the end of the month, take a look at my story. I am a proud member of the main team at Fight Like A Warrior as the Blog Manager and also an autoimmune-warrior.
1. Can you please tell me about the autoimmune disease/s you have?
I have juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
In 2018 I had bilateral total shoulder replacements and am currently looking at needing a my wrist replaced and spine surgery due to the JIA/RA.
2. At what age were you diagnosed and how long did it take for you to get your diagnosis?
I was diagnosed with my primary diagnosis at age 3, although I started showing signs of JIA as early as 9 months old. It was difficult to get my parents to get a pediatrician to listen to them prior to getting the diagnosis. Not to date myself, but I was a baby in the 1980's with an illness that was (and often times still is) considered an "elderly person's disease." There were little resources for my parents when their 3 year old received this diagnosis.
3. What is something you wish people knew about living with an autoimmune disease?
I wish people knew that just because I look ok on the outside, the pain and fatigue are real. Also, that this illness effects everyone differently, and just because someone they may know has the same diagnosis as me, they may not need the same surgeries, medications and interventions.
4. What is the hardest part about having an autoimmune disease?
The hardest part is that it difficult to get people, even friends and family, to truly understand what you are going through. Also, it's very hard to have to come to terms with the fact that you need to (often) adjust your hopes, dreams and plans because of your illness.
5. What gives you hope?
I am given hope through organizations like Fight Like A Warrior and The Arthritis Foundation because they bring a community together. I am able to meet, both in-person and virtually, people going through something similar than me and that is priceless. Through both of these organizations (and some more), I have learned to advocate for myself and others and have seen policies changes, foundations change and that is what gives me hope.
6. Tell us 3 fun facts about yourself!
I have a dog named Stella and twin cats named Armani & Chanel (they are tuxedo cats, hence the fancy-pants names).
I am a certified/trained 200-hour yoga teacher and trained as a Level one Yoga for Arthritis instructor.
Although I am now disabled, I have a Master's in Social Work and love to write (when I can).
Thanks again for following this months series for Autoimmune Awareness Month.
You can follow me for more on Instagram: @ShannieOHL
Stay tuned for more to come at Fight Like A Warrior. We hope you are all staying safe and well.