Having been diagnosed with arthritis at age one, Lisa Bloom doesn’t let arthritis define her.
A challenging childhood
“It doesn’t define who you are.” This is how Lisa Bloom describes arthritis. That’s a pretty amazing thing to say, considering she’s had it as long as she can remember.
“My journey with arthritis started when I was about one year old,” Lisa explains. “Evidently (since I don’t remember) I had started walking…and then I stopped. My parents took me to a series of doctors and eventually ended up at the Mayo clinic.” That’s where she was diagnosed, at eighteen months, with what was then called “juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.”
The first flare-up that she can remember happened when she was twelve. At that time, in the early 1970s, doctors approached arthritis very differently than they do today. Their advice was to be as sedentary as possible, so Lisa had to stop all physical activity. “It was pretty traumatic for me,” she says. “I went from being very outgoing and engaged to being very withdrawn.”
She recalls feeling like she was the only kid in the world who had arthritis. That’s why she and her husband Lee are so committed to supporting the Arthritis Foundation’s camps for kids with arthritis. She imagines how things would have been different if that type of activity was available to her. “I would have not felt so alone.”
“It was very scary when I was very young. Because I would go into the rheumatologist’s office and I would see all these elderly people in wheelchairs, and I thought…that’s going to be me.”
An active adulthood
Lisa credits the fact that she has stayed healthy and active to the good medical care she’s had. Now retired from her job as a software designer, she and her husband Lee enjoy cooking, hiking, scuba diving, walking their dog, and snow shoeing.
It hasn’t been an easy road. For one thing, as so many arthritis patients know, the signs are not always obvious. “I’ve had people say to me ‘I don’t believe you,’” she says. “Because I don’t have all the obvious signs of somebody with arthritis, so my hands look good.”
At other times though, it’s all too visible. “When I’m having a flare up in my knee, it swells up such that I really can’t pull a pant leg over. It swells up to the point where the skin can’t push out anymore.”
Still, Lisa says, she remains hopeful for the future because of all of the advances in treatment. “I’ve taken a lot of different medications over the years, because at some point, they stop working. So, the fact that there is a lot more to choose from, and that I haven’t hit the end of the line is really encouraging.”
It has occasionally been challenging to get an appointment with a rheumatologist. Recently, she was calling around to get an appointment with a new one and the earliest available was three months out. “That just tells me that that we need more rheumatologists or there needs to be some change.”
A promising future
To accelerate that change and bring about a future where everyone can get a rheumatologist’s appointment when they need one, Lisa and her husband Lee are getting into the holiday spirit with an incredibly generous gift to the Arthritis Foundation. It’s a gift that comes with a challenge to other supporters: double it!
The Blooms’ gift will help our efforts to expand the number of fellowship opportunities for rheumatologists, focusing on communities with the most significant shortages. They’re hoping it will inspire others to give, in whatever amount they can, to “support the organization so it can support you.”
Celebrating holiday wins
Living with arthritis can be a constant battle, and people like Lisa know that celebrating the small wins can be encouraging – especially at this time of year.
Since stress can exacerbate arthritis symptoms, a holiday win for the Blooms looks like quiet time at home, baking with their son. Inspired by watching the Great British Baking Show, they have challenged themselves recently to learn some elaborate dishes – ones that take shape over several days. Whether it’s a quiet evening of baking, a brisk hike or a getaway, they don’t take any of it for granted.
Arthritis is a life-altering disease for nearly 60 million Americans like Lisa. With a gift today, you can help conquer it. Learn more and help us meet the challenge match offered by the Blooms!