Megan Park shot to stardom playing conservative cheerleader Grace Bowman on ABC Family’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager for six seasons. But behind the scenes, she had her own secret: She’s been living with rheumatoid arthritis for about a decade.
“I had all the classic symptoms: extreme joint swelling, different pain, the inability to do certain things that everyone else could,” she tells PEOPLE of first being diagnoses with juvenile RA as a child. “That’s when I knew that something wasn’t right.”
Now, the 26-year-old is raising awareness of the disease with the educational campaign Joint Decisions, sharing her story to support others who suffer from the autoimmune disorder. “It’s empowering people who live with RA to share in the healthcare decisions that are going to impact their life and their overall wellbeing,” she explains.
A patient of mine told me the other day, “I don’t think I will ever be able to accept my chronic pain. It has completely changed my life.”
I think this is something that most people with chronic pain contend with at some point in time; wanting to hold onto hope that their diagnosis isn’t chronic or not wanting to come to the realization that they will have to live with the pain forever.
When most people hear the word “acceptance” they equate it with the notion that they should feel that it’s okay or it’s alright to have a chronic condition. Many people don’t ever feel okay about having to live with pain or an illness for the rest of their lives. It is not something that is easy to get used to and it’s not fair.
Archaeological investigations have turned up evidence of injuries, degenerative disease, infections, and tumors in ancient skeletons, but no signs (yet) of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
“It isn’t clear how old rheumatoid arthritis is,” says Nortin Hadler, MD, a professor of rheumatology and microbiology/immunology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “The more you look for it in history, the less you find it.”
Here is a list of famous people who’ve battled the disease in recent history. (The first confirmed cases of RA were probably in the late 1800s.)
In the new romantic comedy “Words and Pictures,” a rolling office chair becomes a tool for art creation. Juliette Binoche, playing an art teacher whose rheumatoid arthritis affects her ability to paint, lies on her stomach across the chair, grabs a paintbrush and swivels from one part to another of the canvas on the floor. Passion and pain become a part of each stroke, as Ms. Binoche both plays a visual artist and is one.
The film, due May 23, follows the competitive relationship between an art teacher and an English teacher (Clive Owen) at a prep school. Both have strong opinions about which medium of expression matters most. The paintings by Ms. Binoche’s character, Dina Delsanto, are seen in various finished and unfinished forms throughout the movie. But there are no art doubles here. Ms. Binoche created all of the canvases herself.
Camas woman, who has lived with disorder since a tot, shows early, consistent care crucial
By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter
Published: April 14, 2014, 6:00 AM
Twenty-year-old Kelly Slauson doesn’t know life without rheumatoid arthritis.
Diagnosed when she was just 18 months old, Slauson’s life as she knows it has always included medications, doctor’s appointments and joint stiffness.
“I thought every kid had to get shots on Friday nights and go to the doctor all the time,” said Slauson, who lives in Camas.
When Slauson was only about 7 or 8 months old, she started walking. But her parents later realized something wasn’t right.
Slauson would walk, but then, after napping, would wake up and revert to crawling. Or, if she did walk, it would be with a limp. Her pediatrician referred her to a rheumatologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital, where she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissue.