Helen King has a good read on the pulse of the arthritis community these days. She has been a major volunteer for our cause since being diagnosed with an aggressive case of rheumatoid arthritis six years ago. The pain and accompanying symptoms she experienced, like intense fatigue, were often unbearable. Today, she still battles occasional flares, as well as mental and emotional challenges, but her treatment regimen helps manage her condition.
During the COVID-19 crisis, Helen — who leads a local Live Yes! Connect Group in the Philadelphia area (eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey) — has experienced the pandemic’s impact herself and has heard from others with arthritis about how the crisis has affected them.
“Perhaps a silver-lining in this situation is there’s greater awareness about those who are immune-compromised and at greater risk of the coronavirus,” says Helen. “It’s also wonderful that we have technology today to connect virtually, which didn’t exist 20 years ago.” Her local group of about 100 members has been connecting online to offer each other support during these trying times.
Helen is a dedicated volunteer, not only facilitating her local support group, but also chairing the local Arthritis Foundation leadership board and representing patients as a Platinum Ambassador in advocacy efforts. Last year, she was national honoree for the walk event, and she keeps plowing ahead. Since 2017, she and her Walk to Cure Arthritis team have raised over $200,000 through donations and sponsorships.
“Our commitment, as donors and volunteers, is what helps keeps the Arthritis Foundation’s work going,” Helen says. “We need to fuel the connections the Foundation makes possible, like local Live Yes! Connect Groups and the 24/7 Online Community. Right now, we need dependable information about exercising, eating right and other tips. Advocacy actions are vital to addressing possible drug shortages and other barriers. And licensed social workers at the Foundation’s Helpline help with insurance concerns, local resource referrals and connecting with others who know what living with arthritis is like.”
This year’s Virtual Walk to Cure Arthritis will be different, but Helen emphasizes that the event is more important than ever. “All of us are working hard with the Arthritis Foundation to make this a successful connective event. On May 16, we’re going to rally together and raise awareness and funds for vital research, resources and connections.”
The May 16 Facebook Live event, at 4 p.m. ET, will feature specialists like dieticians and rheumatologists — plus, many Arthritis Warriors and Champions of Yes who have stories and tips to share to inspire us all.
“We will learn and grow, be creative and innovative, raise more awareness and funds,” says Helen. “We hope everyone will Share Their 54, on behalf of the 54 million Americans diagnosed with arthritis. Tell 54 others about this fundraiser. Do 54 stretches, walk 54 steps or whatever activity you can do to stay healthy. Give or raise $54 to support our mission. What if the 54 million Americans diagnosed with arthritis gave just $1? That would throw a lifeline to those living with arthritis and other chronic diseases.”
Helen also hopes everyone will consider putting some of the money they’re not spending right now toward this fundraiser. “The hair coloring or manicures/pedicures you can’t have right now, other things you have to skip, saving money on gas and tolls. Every dollar counts to keep these crucial services going.”
Helen likens the COVID-19 battle everyone has experienced these past several weeks with the challenges people who have arthritis encounter daily. Feeling isolated. The sleeplessness, extra stress, anxiety and depression many of us encounter. Being concerned about going out and getting exposed, as a high-risk individual, while picking up groceries and medications … and taking care of other pressing needs.
“This is how arthritis patients already live,” she says. “There’s just an extra layer to it all now, bringing increased stress, which can cause more arthritis flares. The connections we can make are invaluable, thanks to the Arthritis Foundation. We will eventually get past this current crisis. But arthritis will still be here. We still need to conquer it. And now is the time to really step up to this challenge.”
If you haven’t already, join the Live Yes! Arthritis Network for FREE. Arthritis Awareness Month in May is a great time to speak out, donate to our cause and share what you’ve experienced. Help change the future of arthritis.