Gina’s life completely changed when she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. She went from being an active 34-year-old business owner to completely disabled by 46. Here she shares her story, along with encouraging words for others experiencing similar situations.

Seeking Medical Care

I first went to my primary doctor when I started to notice how much pain I was in all the time. I was the owner and operator of a hair salon since I was 20 and had been styling hair since I was 17. I [typically stood] for long periods of time. Suddenly, at 34 years old, I physically couldn’t do it anymore.

I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

I’m glad I sought out help when I did because now at 46 years old I’m completely disabled.

This journey has been a difficult one. I don’t really have any family. My mom died when I was 13.

Finding Strength Through Tough Times

I am most passionate about helping others suffering from chronic illnesses or mental health struggles. I have found strength in myself and sharing my story. Online communities were really a big support system for me. I am a dog mom so my dog RJ has really given me unconditional love through difficult times.

Advice for Others

My advice to others who are newly diagnosed with a chronic illness is to be kind to yourself. Give yourself a break when it comes to managing life. Modifications will be necessary but remember you are not a failure. Find new and exciting ways to reinvent yourself. Also, reach out for help in times of need. It’s okay to ask for help. We are all human and not perfect in any way.

I’d like to inspire others to not let their illness define who they are. Just because we are sick doesn’t mean we are our illness. We are all amazing in so many different ways.

I find when I feel down, I rock my most fuzzy and comfy jammie pants and put my hair in pig tails. When my body hurts, I play my favorite music and text people to let them know they are loved. Spreading cheer to others always makes me feel better.

Find your own way to stay inspired and positive in times of ongoing symptoms from an illness.

Gina M.
Buffalo, NY
Diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, degenerative disc disease, PTSD trauma

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