By Michele Corriston
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.