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Member Spotlight: Leanne Donaldson

Photo of Leanne DonaldsonChances are you’ve seen Leanne Donaldson around the community. Not only does Leanne contribute to, she also runs her own blog called Smiles and Sundays. We’re honored to to announce that Leanne is this month’s featured member. We had a chance to sit down and chat with Leanne about her blog and her psoriatic arthritis journey:

What inspired you to start blogging?

I actually started blogging just over a year before my diagnosis. I learned a lot about writing, about myself, and the logistics of getting a blog up and running. I am so thankful I had that year to learn about everything that goes into a successful blog. I really think that without that, I would not have been physically able to learn everything I needed to know and implement it successfully amidst doctor appointments, lab work, and all of the pain. I had no idea when I started my blogging journey that it would lead me down this path. I never imagined that I would be able to offer so much support and understanding to those living with PsA just like me. I feel like there is a series lack of understanding and support in our world. We spend too much time focusing on flaws, mistakes, and negativity when we should be focusing on all of the good in the world. It was my fervent hope when I began writing, and continues to be today, that by reading what I write, someone somewhere will feel uplifted and understood. That someone will say, “Yes! This is exactly what I needed to read today” or “I don’t feel so alone anymore.” Instead of putting negativity and darkness out in the world, that through my writing, I can offer a little bit of sunshine.

Do you think that people know how PsA is different from other types of arthritis?

I think that a majority of people have no idea that psoriatic arthritis even exists, or what it is! To be honest, I had no idea myself. I have a clear memory, from several years before my diagnosis of filling out new patient history paperwork at a doctor’s office. I knew I had been diagnosed with arthritis in my knees from soccer injuries. I thought all types of arthritis were the same and figured it’s official name must be “rheumatoid arthritis” – because that was the only one listed that I had heard of. So I marked the box and moved on.

Looking back I’m astounded at how naive I was! I consider myself a pretty educated person when it comes to health, but I really had no clue. At times when I feel frustrated that people don’t know about PsA, confuse it with osteoarthritis, or even tell me that I’m too young to have arthritis, I try and remind myself that not long ago, I was that same person-marking RA on my form and moving on. I was that well-meaning person, simply confused and unaware that there are actually different kinds of arthritis.

How do you explain what it means to have PsA?

I usually start by telling them that it is autoimmune – most people at least understand that part. Then I usually go on to say that my immune system gets confused and instead of attacking actual germs, it attacks my joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and organs. Depending on how glazed over their eyes look, I may add that there are some days that are worse than others but that once damage is done, it is permanent.

What goes through your mind when you read questions from someone recently diagnosed?

My heart breaks. It really does. I recently had a good friend of mine just diagnosed. She called with questions and concerns and I could hear the fear in her voice. I’ve felt it myself, like everyone else with a PsA diagnosis. I want to ease their fears but not overwhelm then with information. Most of all I want them to know that they are not alone in their fight.

If you had to pick one, which area of your life has been most affected by PsA?

Before PsA, I was a run everywhere, do everything kind of person. My schedule was constantly packed with errands and a “to-do” list a mile long. I have three small children and it seemed like we were always coming and going, there was never any time to simply sit with my children and enjoy being with them. Since my PsA diagnosis, I have had no other choice than to slow down. My body has forced me to rest, to take the time to sit and snuggle my children. I have been forced to appreciate the time I have with them reading a book together or watching a movie in a way I was unable to do before. Sure, the house is a little messier than before, and it takes longer to get the laundry done but I would never trade that for the quality time I have been able to have with my children, all because of PsA.

Please introduce yourself to Leanne by leaving a comment below. You can also follow her on Twitter @SmilesAndSundays!

Is there a community member who you think deserves some recognition for their contributions to the community? Let us know! Email the member’s name and a brief explanation as to why you think he/she should be featured in our Member Spotlight