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How My Journey as a Patient Has Come 'Full Circle' With My Career

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Have you ever had one of those dreams where you’re trying as hard as you can to run away but you can’t seem to break out of slow motion or are simply stuck in your tracks? I have. Except for me, it wasn’t a dream — it was my life. Five years ago, I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, an autoimmune disease that resulted in total body arthritis and pain that made even the slightest movement excruciating. I was indefinitely unable to break out of slow motion.

Five months after my psoriatic arthritis diagnosis, I was rushed to the ER to discover I also had Crohn’s disease, yet another autoimmune disorder that caused bleeding ulcers in my small intestine and made even drinking water almost unbearable.

At the ripe age of 19 I had received back-to-back diagnoses of serious, lifelong chronic illnesses. I endured countless failed treatments, debilitating fatigue, strained relationships and more pain than I ever could have imagined. But I am now blessed to have just celebrated three years of remission from my autoimmune diseases because of the lifesaving treatment I receive every two months. I live a relatively “normal” life and I couldn’t be more thankful.

I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason.

woman giving presentation on her 'reason for being'

While my autoimmune diseases caused me to endure the most difficult time in my life, I am thankful for them. Why? My journey as a patient has defined my reason for being and launched my career in patient advocacy relations. Through my work I have become passionate about doing anything and everything I can to help make patients’ lives easier via digital health. In an age where one can order a taxi or groceries with a press of a button and swipe right to find the love of their lives, it is remarkable that the healthcare space has trailed so far behind.

As a patient, it is reassuring to know that startups around the world are working to bring healthcare up to speed. I currently work at Clara, a web and mobile platform that aims to connect patients to clinical trials and is dedicated to empowering patients with the knowledge they need to make informed treatment decisions.

Life has really come full circle for me. I didn’t know it a few years ago, but patients saved my life. Because of the brave patients that took part in clinical trials, the biologic I take was approved by the FDA. I now have the remarkable opportunity to pay it forward and support the patients who allow me to live fearlessly.

My autoimmune diseases have shaped the course of my life ultimately for the better. I hope my story will inspire fellow patients to know you can and will come out a stronger person because of your patient journey. Never forget that everything happens for a reason… so what’s yours?

Originally published: March 10, 2017
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