COVID-19 has turned all of our lives upside down. But for those of us living with autoimmune diseases, the pandemic may feel like it carries more weight for us than it does for most.
Knowing that the common cold can throw our bodies for a loop, thinking about the potential impact if we were to contract COVID-19 is quite frankly, terrifying.
I won’t go on about the need for social distancing, wearing a mask, and all of the other precautions that one can take to protect themselves because I know that those of you who come across this post are likely already implementing these measures to stay safe. How do I know this? Because it’s already a practice you’ve integrated into your life — from every flu season to packed airplanes, you have the mask, sanitize, and social distance trio down pat.
Instead, I would like to focus on the power of autoimmune patients during this pandemic. While COVID-19 has thrust fear and uncertainty upon our lives, I believe that autoimmune patients are uniquely positioned to help see us through.
We are masters of living in the unknown. From taking years to get properly diagnosed to questions like: When will my next flare be? What happens when/if my treatment stops working? Will I be well enough to take this vacation? Will I be able to handle a job?
Whether we like it or not, uncertainty is an inherent part of our lives. Our learned ability to live in the unknown is powerful.
Right now, every single person on this earth is living in the unknown and many of them are struggling to cope. This is our chance to support others with this superpower we possess. Reach out to friends and family who are struggling. Share how you’ve learned to cope with the unknown and some of the tactics you use to do so. Helping others is a phenomenal way to empower ourselves and do our part in contributing to pandemic relief.
But don’t forget to take care of yourself too. While as autoimmune patients we know how to manage uncertainty, this pandemic has undoubtedly unearthed new hurdles for us to climb such as barriers to accessing medication or frustration and fear of the people who aren’t taking the proper precautions to keep all of us safe.
Know that here at AARDA, we are standing with you and doing everything in our power to take care of your doing this time, whether that be advocating for legislation to protect high-risk populations during the COVID-19 crisis or developing resources like our webinar on mental health and coping through the pandemic for autoimmune patients…we’re here for you.
Take time to care for yourself, help others with your superpower, and lean on team AARDA and your care team. Never forget that it is together we will make it through.
About the Author
Lilly Stairs is recognized as a leading voice in the rapidly growing patient engagement field, having built award-winning patient ambassador programs and powerful awareness campaigns that united patients and industry. She has served as an advocate for over a decade, transitioning into patient advocacy after she was diagnosed with multiple autoimmune diseases.
Lilly is the Founder & Principal at Patient Authentic where she helps healthcare companies authentically engage with patients and build movements to drive brand awareness and product adoption. Prior to founding Patient Authentic, Lilly served as the Head of Client Relations at Savvy Cooperative and lead Patient Advocacy at Clara Health where she conceived and executed patient engagement strategy and ensured the patient voice remained firmly at the center of the company. She has served in communications and advocacy roles across industry from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement to MassBio.
Lilly regularly shares her experience and expertise via speaking engagements from conferences to Capitol Hill and also serves as Vice-Chair for the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA). She is a Lead Patient Advisor for Clara Health, ZappRx, and Janssen.