by Elizabeth Wald.
(Port Chester, NY)
When I saw that you added this category, I dove right in. For the many millions who suffer from chronic disease or disabilities, I know how life is firsthand through my own struggles with RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis) and Fibromyalgia.
RA is a crippling disease that is painful and systemic in nature. Fibromyalgia, too causes disability and a lower quality of life. Unfortunately these types of illnesses cause depression and a downward spiral of pain and feelings of hopelessness.
A vast majority of people like myself end up having to shift careers or stop working all together. Currently there is no cure for RA or Fibromyalgia. But there is hope on the horizon. RA is not Osteo-Arthritis. People often confuse the two saying such things as, “Oh I have arthritis too. My right elbow hurts when it rains”.
People with RA and Fibromyalgia could only pray for such a good day. In hindsight I see what really has kept me sane is putting the pain in the background by becoming absorbed in jewelry making.
Since I was mostly housebound, making RA and Fibromyalgia awareness jewelry came from the common feeling across my support Forums that people on the outside knew very little of RA or Fibromyalgia. It seems to many that Fibromyalgia is all in our heads.
The seemingly clueless members of society and even my immediate family and friends seem to have no idea how very painful life is on a day-to day basis with RA or Fibromyalgia. That is why they are known as ‘the invisible diseases’.
Coming across your site would prove to be my saving grace, Rena – because it eased the transition from personal trainer to that of jewelry designer. I was lucky that my designs started selling almost right away at local shows and fairs.
You have always been so upbeat and positive, something which normal healthy people need. Add to that the emotional baggage of a chronic disease and the transition requires nothing short of your attitude and a good support network. Without these elements, I really don’t see where a sense of mentoring occurs.
The change has certainly not been easy but it has been far more rewarding than anything I can remember. It’s been a blessing through the friends I have made – amazing and talented people and through the opportunities to help women with these diseases feel self empowered with their new conversational pieces, be it necklace, earrings or RA/Fibromyalgia Awareness bracelets.
This is one of the first items I designed which ended up in a two page spread feature story of Arthritis Health Monitor Magazine with orders that followed. I would say the most important and rewarding part of this feature story would later be speaking with women who contacted me though my website to share the same pain, frustration and sense of isolation I too was feeling.
It was a blessing to be able to inspire them to get back to their childhood crafts or explore a new medium for expressing their pain, or a new way of ‘putting the pain in the background’. I was also able to refer them to online forums so that they had resources and support groups that would suit their particular needs. I’d even go so far as to say that some of my clients have become my closest friends.
The next phase of jewelry making with a disability is very exciting because it expands to handcrafted Medical Alert bracelets, life saving devices that are not being worn as they are supposed to. That is where fashion meets challenge because we all envision a gaudy bracelet. That is where I embraced the challenge with vigor.
If I could make people love these bracelets enough, my mission of getting them to wear the bracelets 24/7 would be accomplished. What I did not realize is that I too, should be wearing a medical alert bracelet. That is the message I am trying to get across.
More and more I hear, “I never realized I should be wearing one”. Further, I aim on educating people on the importance of the medic alert ID and how it can literally change one’s life. People with chronic medical conditions that often go hand and hand with disabilities should be wearing a medical alert bracelet. That is how the crossover from my niche within the RA community has developed into what I foresee a venture worth diving into.
The best advice I can give is to find your niche of friends first, for example – if you are a breast cancer survivor join a BC support forum – and the rest will follow. I care about each and every person that purchases custom made jewelry from me and I treat every sale as if each handcrafted piece were for my best friend.
The market is saturated with customized medical alert bracelets. It is getting to know that individual so well that you can pop out a design in minutes knowing he or she will love it. It is also caring about them enough to want to encourage anyone with a disability to wear their medic alert bracelets. It’s about finding something meaningful to do with your life even though you live with a disability.
Just because you are ‘disabled’ does not mean that you have to give in and feel all depressed and sorry for yourself. On the contrary, it represents opportunities that never may have arisen in an otherwise ‘normal’ and healthy lifestyle.
Love what you do!
Information contained in this website should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. No products mentioned in this post have been tested or endorsed by Rena Klingenberg.