By Kim Byrne
When I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Crohns in May of 2010, I searched the Internet for answers to my questions. In my Internet search, I found some scary sites, and a lot of falsehoods. I decided to give up on the Internet. After a severe Crohns flare, I truly thought I was close to death and went to a university setting for care. It was there that I learned that my RA was out of control. Once I came home from the hospital after 11 days, I decided now that I have finally found doctors, I need to educate myself. I started searching the Internet again, this time with a very closed mind.
Not long after that I found rawarrior.com. I loved the positive attitude, and I joined the Facebook page. I lurked and watched. I was happy with what I saw and read, but I still was burned from the last Internet encounter, and I did not trust the Internet. On a Sunday afternoon- there was a post on the Facebook page about #Rheum chat on twitter. Well, I decided to try it- I could lurk, my username on twitter was a difficult name and I could just never go back if I did not like it. So, I joined in the chat. I can still tell you who was in that chat this very day. I had some questions answered and the positive attitude of everyone was contagious. After the chat, I truly felt I was not alone. That #Rheum Chat experience changed my view of social media. I started learning about hashtags, and “following” and “followers”. I looked forward to the Sunday chats, no matter how discouraged I was, I came out of #Rheum chat with encouragement. I then realized, I could hang with my #Rheum friends every day! I still wanted face-to-face contact, though. I went back to the RAWarrior Facebook page, and I found a lady who lived in the same rural town I lived in. She was only 8 miles away! I immediately emailed her. Within a week we met. We text, we email, we call, we have lunch when we are able. It’s so nice to have a real person who understood and was living with RAD.
Soon, I began to communicate with Kelly Young. We discovered we both lived in Florida and promised to meet. We discovered we have a lot in common. We went to lunch and literally sat in a booth for 4 hours talking. We talked about everything from our families, and our pets, to RA and different life experiences! We brainstormed a lot of ideas on RPF. I now have a full understanding of the Foundation, and how RPF is going to help us in many ways as we fight alongside each other against Rheumatoid Arthritis. The Foundation will bring people together who understand the disease as well as create understanding for those who don’t! The Foundation is new, but the goals are clear-cut. This is a foundation for us, you and me, the people with RA. I never would have understood the importance of this Foundation and its future, if it had not been for social media helping me to find the face-to-face friendships I needed for my RA.
Things take time so be patient; the wheels are moving! In the meantime, you can help! You can always help monetarily by making a tax-deductible donation. You can jump on to social media if you are not already there. You can start finding friends with RA you can meet. #Rheum Chat is every Sunday at 3pm EST; will I “see” you there?