My first week at Pack Health I knew I wanted to work on the Immunology team. Autoimmune conditions are so interesting because there is so much left to learn! As a dietitian, I discovered that people with an autoimmune condition are more likely to struggle with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease), and other food allergies and sensitivities. I had found my place to help others and feel like my knowledge could really change someone’s life, little did I know my members would be changing mine.
The more I learned about each individual condition and what it takes to manage them, the more I realized what heroes I would be talking to. What kind of bravery would it take to have an autoimmune condition such as rheumatoid arthritis, or psoriasis, or multiple sclerosis and be willing to fight back? Several times during training as I learned about infusions, and steroids, and the pain these members felt every day, I began to wonder how I could motivate these people to improve their health in spite of their body literally attacking itself for reasons that are unknown. I prepared to carry burdens and to take on the task of empathy, although I was genuinely afraid of these important jobs… But my experience has been farthest from what I prepared myself for!
Every day I talk to my members with autoimmune conditions and they have brought me such joy, inspiration, and hope. Despite genuine challenges and legitimate excuses, these members continue to work for improved health. They call to tell me food puns and jokes (useful as a dietitian) and tell me about the many adventures of their kids and grandkids. My members talk about their plans to go fishing again after arthritis left them with yet another knee replacement. Another member sets a tiny step to play outside with his kids. Another member is no longer able to work, so she is volunteering to help at a homeless shelter and plans to start selling her art at a craft fair this summer. Story after story and life after life I have found that instead of carrying burdens I am overflowing with joy!
One story in particular and the title quote of this blog has hit me harder than most. My member was talking about all the things she had tried in the past to help her RA get better. RA had left her with permanent deformities of her hands and feet. The pain in her joints made it very difficult to get out of bed every day and so she had sunk into a depression. That was when her doctor told her about Pack Health. She said she was ready to make some changes that will last and start fighting back. When I asked what made her ready to start making some lasting lifestyle changes she replied, “I looked down at my hands at feet and realized RA is not going to wait until tomorrow, so why should I?”