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|Emily Huff, Adult Honoree|
2017 Virginia Beach JBR
From the outside, Emily may not look like someone who has arthritis. In fact, she wasn't even sure that she was a "good enough" choice to represent the Arthritis Foundation as the Adult Honoree for the 2017 Jingle Bell Run. However, after giving it some thought, she realized that there are so many people that suffer from some form of arthritis and the majority of the people around them have no idea. Arthritis is often a disease that you cannot see. Her hope is that her story can help others who may be suffering without a diagnosis and inspire those who may be facing a similar journey, and educate those who seek to understand the complexities of arthritis.
Emily’s journey to the Arthritis Foundation was nothing short of interesting. Professionally, she has worked in the pharmaceutical industry for the last 19 years. The last 11 of these years, selling products and services for patients that suffer from many forms of inflammatory arthritis and immune mediated diseases. In fact, her initial introduction to the AF was to help support the Jingle Bell Runs in the Hampton Roads area. She believed in our mission and was happy to provide support as a vendor and also fundraising for this amazing cause. Ironically, 6 years into her position, she began suffering from hip and back pain. Having access to rheumatology physicians, she began asking questions about my symptoms. After a physical exam, blood work, and X-rays, she was told that she was suffering from mechanical back pain caused by my active lifestyle, previous gymnastics background, and the fact that she was getting older. She couldn't dispute any of these facts and accepted her diagnosis.
About a month later, she had a sleepless night with intense pain. The pain was so alarming that she contacted her rheumatologist and requested that she have an MRI to rule out something potentially more serious. The radiologist's report showed bilateral erosions in her sacroiliac joint. Coupled with a blood test to reveal that she had a genetic marker common in patients with Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS), her diagnosis became clear.
Seemingly out of nowhere, her immune system was attacking my body. She later discovered that there were several events in her life that may have triggered this immune response. Four years prior to her diagnosis, she donated a large portion of her liver to her brother who needed a transplant. A year later, after a complicated pregnancy, her daughter was born. The genetic predisposition for AS combined with the physical and emotional stress associated with these events is thought to be the culprits for her disease.
AS is a chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy joints, mainly in the spine. This immune response causes inflammation, which contributes to pain and stiffness in these joints. There is no known cure. It has predominantly been diagnosed in young males, but is now thought to affect as many females as males. She feels very blessed to understand her diagnosis and also to have access to the healthcare and medicines necessary to slow the progression of this disease.
Although her journey to diagnosis was not a straight line, she is thankful for the Arthritis Foundation and their mission to advocate for patients and help improve the lives of those impacted by arthritis. She is a Champion of YES and she feels incredibly honored to be recognized by the Arthritis Foundation.