Diagnosed as a Child, Ashley Boynes-Shuck Now Channels Her Energy Into Advocating for Others Living with RA

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As a child, Ashley Boynes-Shuck was active and loved to play softball and basketball. She was also a cheerleader. Due to a diagnosis of juvenile idiopathic arthritis (previously known as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis) in middle school, she was forced to stop playing sports.

“My symptoms began with aching joints after pitching in a softball game. I also hurt my knee skiing and it was never the same since. Back then, my rheumatologist sadly suggested I quit sports,” Boynes-Shuck says.

In her 20s, she received a diagnosis of adult-onset rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Now that she is 36 years old, she has lived with RA for more of her life than she hasn’t. Over the years, she found ways to stay in touch with her inner athlete.

“I’m an active and outdoorsy person by nature and still love things like hip- hop dance, Zumba, water aerobics and swimming, kayaking, hiking, snorkeling, horseback riding, and yoga, but I do miss playing sports,” she says. “Softball was my life.”

Throughout her journey with RA, Boynes-Shuck has been prescribed different rheumatoid arthritis medications, including biologics, immunosuppressants, DMARDs, steroids, NSAIDs, and supplements. She currently manages her condition with acupuncture, massage, and steroids or NSAIDs as needed.

In addition to medical treatment from her doctor, she makes self-care a priority.

“Writing, playing music, my pets, husband, and family, being in touch with nature, and helping, coaching, and advocating for other RAers have all helped me to cope,” Boynes-Shuck says.

A call to help others

In 2009, Boynes-Shuck began working as a community development director and peer-to-peer advocate with the Arthritis Foundation.

“I found that it was helpful to have something positive and productive to focus on, and I found joy and gratitude in helping and serving others, spreading awareness, health coaching, and advocating,” she says.

“These are things I’ve felt called to do, all the while turning my negative situation into something useful and positive.”

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