Last weekend, I had the opportunity to travel to Chicago to attend HealtheVoices 2016. This year, the conference was put on by Janssen, as it was last year, but this year included the addition of Everyday Health. The unique thing about this particular conference is that it brings together online health advocates who have a variety of health conditions.
The theme of this year’s conference was “deeply rooted connections” and this was seemed particularly appropriate to me.
The conference coincided with a major milestone for me. I’ve been blogging for eight years. That’s so crazy! I can’t even believe it. I wrote my first blog post on April 17, 2008. I didn’t even really know what a blog was. All I knew is that I felt totally alone, and confused, and I needed a way to process all that was going on. The conference really reminded me of where I’ve come from, where I’m going, and why I do what I do.
I was so inspired by the other amazing health advocates at the conference. I learned about legal issues as they relate to blogging, and the importance of taking care of ourselves, avoiding compassion fatigue, while also attempting to take care of others.
I got to see some old friends and got to make some new friends. I love how when we all get together, we can act silly, while also understanding the difficulties that we experience living with chronic, incurable illnesses; and the impact that traveling and being in unfamiliar environments can have on our health.
I think that a conference like HealtheVoices forces us out of our comfort zone. It makes us move beyond our own silos. But it also reinforces that while we may have different diseases, much of our experiences that we have as chronically ill people are the same.
One of my fellow advocates at the conference made a comment that when she was searching for support for her disease, she found it through other blogs, which she called “hope with skin on it.” That really resonated with me. I really hope that this blog has brought hope to others with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, and to those with other chronic illnesses, as well.
I started this blog eight years ago as a way to keep my family and friends updated on my complicated, ever-changing medical situation. It was exhausting to rehash the same story over and over again. And quite frankly, it was often easier to write about it than it was to talk about it.
But what started as a way to keep people updated, turned into something so much more than I could have ever imagined.
I am so grateful for all of the amazing opportunities that have come my way as a result of this blog. And I am so grateful for the amazing people I have met, and even more grateful to the ones I can now call my friends. These deeply rooted connections are the most important thing that this blog has fostered, and I truly don’t know where I would be without them.
So thank you. Thank you to Janssen and Everyday Health for allowing me to be a part of HealtheVoices 2016. Thank you to all of my readers who have been there along the way, who have supported me, and who have celebrated the triumphs and mourned the tragedies. This blog would be nothing without its readers. And it still amazes me that there are people other than my mom that read this blog.
So I’ll keep writing, even if it is not as often as I would like, and I urge you to please keep reading. Please continue to follow my journey, and hopefully you will learn and gain something along the way.
* Janssen paid for my travel expenses, but all of the opinions expressed here are my own.