Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
Young Adult Honoree
Rachel’s journey began when she was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis at age 16. Her life went from normal teenager to one with dealing with “flare-ups", weekly self-injections, monthly infusions, various medications and now regular visits to the Rheumatologist. Since her diagnosis, the disease has spread to both knees, hips, shoulders, jaws, ankles, one elbow and even to her chest. However, to look at her one might think that nothing was wrong because this can be an “invisible disease". When Rachel is not experiencing joint inflammation this is true for her but pain is still there in different degrees. She is not one to complain. Rachel is a Champion of Yes!
When it came time for Rachel to go to College, she chose LSU and left home. This would have been scary for many with a chronic disease but Rachel is a strong young woman and determined not to let this disease “define” her life. Rachel is now a 22-year-old senior and is majoring in Theater: Design & Technology.
There may be tough days ahead but Rachel has a strong spirit and a dream to follow just like everyone else. I leave you with a quote she made on the 4th Anniversary of her diagnoses “Arthritis isn’t fun, but it’s definitely helped me to grow as a person these last four years, and I wouldn’t be the strong woman that I am without the difficult times that I’ve faced. So happy anniversary to me, and let’s hope that each year is a little more pain free!”
This year team “Walkin’ 4 Rachel” will be participating in the Nashville walk for the 6th year and to date has raised over $50,000.
Diana has been an arthritis warrior now for more than 25 years. Last June she started an arthritis support group, Live Yes! Connect, for the local Murfreesboro & Greater Nashville area. She is dedicating her walk this year to the honor of her mother, Viola, who passed from a related condition, Ankylosing Spondylitis, a form of arthritis which fuses the spine.
During high school, Diana studied ballet in NYC, danced in summer stock musicals and was an apprentice member of the Cincinnati Civic Ballet. Later, she became a teacher at Peabody Demo School, now the University School on Vanderbilt’s campus and additionally at Nannie Berry Elementary School in Hendersonville. After raising her three sons, she earned her master’s degree at Penn State University and became a senior-level corporate training & performance improvement manager at both Amoco and JPMorgan Chase headquarters. Her career was cut short at age 53 due to her health issues.
She is the eldest of 5 daughters and the only one of them who has arthritis. She began with RA in her hands and jaw with most of her other joints now impacted. OA in the spine and hips, related to her dance career from age 2 to 19, came later. Over the years, she has also developed six other autoimmune conditions, but she has not allowed them to stop her. She maintains an upbeat attitude as she continues her journey focused, as always, on care-giving and support.
Dr. R. Deaver Collins
R. Deaver Collins, Jr, MD, is a Nashville native and second-generation graduate of Vanderbilt Medical School. He was also educated at Amherst, Yale, and finally the University of Alabama at Birmingham for his fellowship in Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology.
During his 35-year career in Mississippi, Dr. Collins served as the president of the Mississippi Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation; a physician for the Honduras Medical Mission for the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi; and the Chief of the Division of Rheumatology and Chief of the Medical Staff at Mississippi Baptist Medical Center.
Dr. Collins and his wife, Rebecca, are happy to return to Middle Tennessee, where their son and daughter live with their families. He is a member of Christ Church Cathedral and Old Oak Club and enjoys hiking and canoeing.