Wow! Wow! Wow! My second year at HealtheVoices was even better than the first year.
Last year I didn't really know what to expect and came home a little overwhelmed from the awesomeness of what advocates are doing for our health community but honestly, I felt a little disappointed in myself. What was I really doing to help the rheumatoid arthritis community?
Throughout the year I have reflected on this and have come to a happy place on my contributions to the community. This reflection lead me to attend this year with a fresh attitude of I am going to learn from others but I advocate on a level that is comfortable and convenient for me. This brought my anxiety level down 100%. This year I could listen and take ideas but also accept that others are also advocating at a level that is comfortable and convenient for them. Amazing how attitude changes everything.
Together We Thrive was the theme of this year's conference and I came home really feeling like we each have a piece to play in the big picture, no matter how big or small our following.
There are so many wonderful things that happened at HealtheVoices17. I will attempt to highlight a few random thoughts that have stuck in my head.
- 105 patient advocates representing 35 health conditions were in attendance.
- Both Facebook and YouTube attended and gave us new ideas on how to use social media for health advocacy.
- There is nothing better than having a friend you met last year run up and give you a big hug.
- When Janssen says take breaks as you need them, they mean it. In fact, they had rooms set up for socializing or quiet when you needed to get away, plus there was always your room to hide away in when you were "over people", a new term I learned and LOVE.
- The kindness and openness of fellow advocates made it so easy to make new friends, even for an introvert. This year I was able to add to my list of friends with and without RA.
- While each of us has a unique story, we share more in common than you would ever imagine. Each health condition faces stigmas, feelings of inadequacy, struggles, and much more.
- It wasn't necessary to relive your journey, but you could. Janssen, Tonic, and attendees just accepted that each person's experience was unique and added to the big picture.
- You know you are at the right conference when the question, "what are you doing for self-care?" is the topic at your dinner table.
- As health advocates, we really are in this together. We're not in competition.
- I feel hopeful. I feel that with Janssen's help, patients are making a huge difference in how pharmaceutical companies do business. As a patient advocate from Janssen said, "in the past we worked FOR patients. Today, we work WITH patients." Our voice is being heard.
- Most of all, when I was diagnosed in 2004 with rheumatoid arthritis, I never imagined I would meet such amazing friends! Throughout the weekend I felt like I was wrapped in a great big hug.