All posts by Arthritis Foundation

Celebrating Everyday Wins

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 “I went from being very outgoing and engaged to being very withdrawn.”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!

Make a Donation. Change the future of arthritis.

A New and Better You With Mind Body Stress Reduction

By Lauren Brooke

Have you ever desired to transport your mind’s energy to a state of calmness and tranquility? If you answered yes, then MBSR might be the right journey for you to embark upon. MBSR stands for mind body stress reduction, and as a participant, I can say it certainly is. The MBSR course, originally developed at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in the 1970s by professor Jon Kabat-Zinn, is designed for participants to become aware of the mind-body connection and through the various practices to become mindful. As you explore breath work, meditation and mindful body movements, you can learn new tools to not only reduce stress, but to also be present in each moment.

As an individual who has been living with arthritis since my teenage years, I am well-versed in the effects stress can have on my body. Stress equals more pain, tightness, the ever-looming fear of a flare and more. It also increases my anxiety and makes me feel “stuck in a loop” with my own thoughts — which I can’t say is always the best place to be. It is precisely for these reasons that I decided to sign up for the eight-week course, with the hopes to become a new and better me.

At first, I wasn’t sure what to expect — I had tried meditation and yoga in the past and not much came of them. These practices seemed great in theory, but in real-life applications they came with much difficulty. So, what would be different this time? The answer: everything. Instead of attempting yoga or meditation classes in person, which often resulted in uncomfortable chairs or positions, this course was offered on Zoom. This meant I could participate in the comfort of my own home and in my comfortable chair! Next, you have the option to turn your cameras on and off. Want to close your eyes and embrace focusing on your breathing without worrying if others are looking at you? Feel free. Do you want to be in comfortable clothing or even pajamas? Be my guest. For me, I liked having these options and it really made my experience that much better.

Now, let’s talk about the energy from the instructor and participants that was present throughout the course. If you’re thinking that energy can’t be felt through Zoom, think again. From the first class, the instructor creates a safe and judgement free space. There is full acceptance to be who you are, just as you are, with absolutely no judgment. Sounds pretty amazing, right? Well, it is! My fellow students were either Live Yes! Connect Group facilitators or caregivers for someone with arthritis. This make-up created a haven for people who truly understand what it is like to live with arthritis — they get it. Is that something you crave? To be seen and understood? For me, it was essential and I found it within this cohort. We were free to explore our feelings and discuss our experiences without any judgement. In addition, we were greatly respected and dignified by the instructor. He didn’t make us feel like we were just patients, but rather strong warriors whom he wanted to learn from!

Also, through the use of body scans, I learned to label sensations I felt, as just that — bodily sensations. Instead of catastrophizing what I am feeling or getting all caught up in the worry of a sensation, I can now calmly say this is a sensation that will pass — and it eventually does. By learning how to focus on my breath during meditations and use it as an anchor when I am stressed, I can regain a feeling of being centered. When I practice yoga, I can honor my body and provide the release it needs through various positions to ease muscle tightness.

But perhaps one of the best things that I learned as a student, was that I am in control

of me. Not others, not my arthritis, me. MBSR taught me that I have a choice. I have a choice on how I want to respond to stress. By making a choice, not only am I able to have more solutions, but I am empowered.

As a graduate, I am now able to practice mindfulness on a daily basis. It has been ingrained in my mind to be present in each moment. To say MBSR has allowed me to become a new and better me, would be an understatement. It has been life-changing and I am forever in gratitude for this incredible opportunity.

Lauren Brooke is a facilitator for the Live Yes! Connect Group in Monmouth County, New Jersey. She is passionate about arthritis and invisible disability awareness. As a writer, she focuses writing about her journey of living with arthritis.