Stepfanie Baddour was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis at age 22. As a retired competitive baton twirler and coach, Baddour thought her joint pain was normal due to her athletic lifestyle. However, when she retired and continued to experience joint pain that grew increasingly worse, she knew something wasn’t right. “When I finally received the RA diagnosis, I remember thinking about my childhood and assuming my daily aching elbows and stiff hands were normal,” says Baddour. “Looking back, I may have had RA longer than I thought.”
Like many others, when Baddour received her diagnosis, one of her initial reactions was relief because she finally had answers. Her family, however, was very worried because in the past, there was not as much knowledge or treatment of RA available and the risks were so significant. Baddour became involved with the Arthritis Foundation through the Jingle Bell Run three years ago which has helped raise awareness about the disease and the Arthritis Foundation’s work not only within her network of friends and family, but especially for those others who are newly diagnosed. Baddour is a shining example of being a Champion of Yes; while some days it’s hard to even get out of bed, she never lets her arthritis dictate her life. She remains active doing the things she loves like golfing, supporting Cleveland sports, working out and experiencing the Cleveland culinary scene.
The Arthritis Foundation is honored to have Stepfanie Baddour as the 2018 Cleveland Jingle Bell Run Adult Honoree. Click here to join or support Stepfanie’s team the “Red Nosed Run-Deers.”
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
Isabella Rosalina was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis at just two years old. Isabella was always such a happy toddler, so when she began crying from having her hands wiped and her diaper changed, Isabella’s mother knew something was wrong. When the pain persisted, the doctors ran additional tests and Isabella was diagnosed with Polyarticular Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, she had over 15 joints affected.
The year after Isabella was diagnosed with arthritis, she was also diagnosed with Uveitis which is inflammation of the eye caused by arthritis. Since the age of three, doctors have had a very hard time trying to control Isabella’s Uveitis. She has been on a variety of medications for most of her life trying to control both her arthritis and her uveitis. “My mom said when I was younger, our routine became her giving me my weekly injections, then I would vomit immediately after, then I’d go back to playing soccer,” said Isabella. “After many years of medications and their side effects including weakening my immune system, my parents began incorporating as many holistic approaches as they could. I changed my diet, started acupuncture, cryotherapy and medical massages, all of which have helped me considerably.” Isabella still has joint pain, but she works hard to balance her quality of life and that daily pain. “My hope for others with arthritis is to be able to rise above our obstacles and find strength in knowing we’re not alone,” said Isabella.
Throughout her life, Isabella has been an avid soccer player and is even going on to play at the collegiate level. She has never let her arthritis stop her from pursuing her passion of playing and although it can be extremely painful at times, it makes her so happy that she never lets arthritis deter her from getting out on the field. Isabella and her family became involved with the Arthritis Foundation’s Jingle Bell Run several years ago and have continued to volunteer with the Foundation throughout the year. “It means a lot to me knowing the Arthritis Foundation does so much for children and adults living with arthritis and related diseases,” said Isabella. “It means even more that I am able to help in any way possible.”
The Arthritis Foundation is honored to have Isabella Rosalina serve as this year’s 2018 Jingle Bell Run Youth Honoree. To join or support Isabella’s “Team Rosalina,” click here.
After graduating from nursing school in her late-20s, Julie Sadar’s symptoms of psoriatic arthritis began. “It felt like my body was attacking itself,” said Julie. “I was in terrible pain every day and had gained a significant amount of weight. I was labeled as disabled and as it turns out, that was exactly what was happening.” The level of inflammation in Julie’s body was so high that it was not only affecting her joints, but also shutting down her organs. She saw several specialists with the hopes of finding answers only to be disappointed. “I was frustrated, desperately seeking solutions,” said Julie. “It was a very hopeless time in my life. I believed if we could find my primary diagnosis, the secondary issues would calm down.”
Julie became her own advocate searching for answers. It took four years to build a team of doctors who would finally be able to diagnosis and treat Julie properly. One of the key players on this team was her rheumatologist, Dr. May Azem. Dr Azem, in close conjunction with the other specialists, continued to dig deeper and find solutions. Numerous tests were run over those years to rule issues out, but finally Dr Azem trusted her gut and began treating Julie for psoriatic arthritis even though the previous tests were inconclusive. Gradually, this treatment began working. “You truly don’t realize the toll chronic pain takes on you until you don’t have it anymore,” said Julie. “I present atypically in most of my disease processes and psoriatic arthritis was no different. We narrowed my diagnoses to include Hashimotos disease, hypoglycemia, sleep apnea, hypertension, chronic hives and essential tremors of my hands.”
Julie’s journey to finally finding answers has been a long and often painful one; she concludes persistence is key. “As I continued my journey back to health I also fell back in love with being active,” said Julie. “I appreciate it so much more after having it dashed away from me.” Julie began running a few years into treatment, the more she did the better she felt, never dreaming she would be able to achieve the fitness level she has today. Five years ago, Julie became a triathlete and found a new passion. To date, she has completed 3 full-distance Ironman competitions which include a 2.4 mile swim, 112 bike and 26.2 mile run. This fall, she will complete her fourth. In Julie’s own, powerful, words “disabled to Ironman is pretty awesome!”
Julie Sadar approaches every day with an attitude of gratitude. The Arthritis Foundation is honored to have Julie serve as this year’s Athlete Ambassador of the Cleveland Jingle Bell Run, to join or support Julie’s team, “Jingle For Your Joints,” click here.