I feel honored to introduce Jodi McKee not only as a phenomenal woman and a fellow arthritis-sufferer, but as a friend. Jodi and I met only this past summer when I stumbled upon her amazing blog, the Autoimmune Portrait Project (click here to read my July post about it). When I read about her mission -- to "spread the word about all of the younger people out there who are dealing with these chronic, often painful, illnesses" - I knew I had to meet her and participate. She's always looking to meet new people and learn more about their stories, so if you're coping with chronic illness don't hesitate to contact her. Jodi was the first "online friend" I met in the real world and, on that first day, we couldn't stop chattering away. It was a breath of fresh air to meet someone who really understood -- someone who walked just a little bit slower for me without being asked. From that day, I knew Jodi was special.
Jodi is many things -- not least of all a phenomenal photographer. In fact, she just created an amazing new website. Check it out!
On here, you can learn more about Jodi, preview her impressive portfolio, and read more about her autoimmune portraits and other projects in the works. It's Jodi's passion that astounds me. From the simplicity of one last leaf hanging on in a New York December to the steel cables of the Brooklyn Bridge, her ability to find beauty is inspiring. In one of her recent meals together, Jodi revealed her awesome list: 34 Things To Do Before I Turn 35 , a new take on the traditional "Bucket List." As we all know, a "Bucket List" can be daunting and can stare us in the face for years...incomplete. Jodi's list, however, is composed of special, attainable goals - anything from "eating pizza at grimaldi's" to "giving more hugs." Brilliant, right? That's Jodi for you...honoring the big and small joys in life equally. She approaches her days with excitement, creativity, and is someone who just gets things done. I'm hoping that some of her spontaneity is contagious, as this quality tends to wane in me sometimes (especially after long periods of illness). I think it's a pretty good start that we've attended not one, but TWO Ingrid Michaelson concerts together in the past two months!
Quite frankly, Jodi is AWESOME and the care she's shown me since we met has meant so much. Now enjoy getting to know this wonderful lady a bit more...
What is the year you were first diagnosed? How old were you ?
I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in 2008 at age 31.
What would you tell someone who has been newly diagnosed with your condition and/or a chronic illness in general?
I would tell them to reach out to other people with similar conditions. It has been amazingly helpful to me to meet others with similar problems online and especially wonderful to meet a few of them in person. Also, depression often comes along with chronic pain & illness. Don't be afraid of reaching out for help. My therapists and psychiatrist are a vital part of my medical team.
Please explain a bit how your condition affects you. (for example: What are the symptoms and what is the hardest to cope with? Has the disease changed with time? etc. )
My RA diagnosis was preceded by an extremely painful bout of scleritis (eye inflammation). This led to numerous tests which resulted in the RA diagnosis. Luckily, I have not had a recurrence of scleritis, but the RA symptoms have continued to spread. Lately, I've had the most trouble with pain and stiffness in my hands and feet. I have some knee and elbow pain, and occasional bouts of pain in my hips and shoulders. I have also started to develop some recurring muscle pain and I constantly battle fatigue. Most of the time, I can manage dealing with the pain. But it's the fatigue that really knocks me down.
What are 3 things you couldn't live without?
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of starting my Autoimmune Portrait Project and having it featured in Arthritis Today magazine. It's an amazing feeling to make something incredible happen out of such a crappy illness.
Where do you get your strength?
Wow. Where do I get it from? The support I receive from my husband is probably the one thing that keeps me going the most. I also find strength from hearing from and talking to others with similar conditions. It makes me feel less alone in all of this. Also, everyone out there has something to deal with. No one's life is perfect, and things could always be a lot worse.
If you could send one message to medical professionals around the world, what would it be?
Take the time to be there for your patients. I am now on rheumatologist #3, and just now feel like I'm really being taken care of. The most important thing a doctor can do is actually stop and take the time to listen and answer questions in an easy to understand manner. It makes SUCH a big difference. Keep fighting for us and with us, because we don't want to give up!
I'm living in New York, studying social work, and making time to be Maya: a daughter, a sister, a fiance, a friend, a writer, an animal lover and someone coping with 2 medical conditions (Spondylitis & Fibromyalgia). Every day I'm learning to live and love not despite chronic illness, but because of it. I treasure my readers, so please comment or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for stopping by!