“Doctors told me I should come home from school, sit on the couch and rest,“ recalls the Perry Township resident. “I had to give up athletics and marching band. I was devastated. But I’m not mad. They did the best they could with the knowledge they had at the time.”
Of course, doctors now know that movement is the best medicine for arthritis, and that’s why, despite her physical limitations, Anderson has agreed to serve as the adult honoree for the Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis, which gets under way at 9 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 13, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Info: www.arthritis.org.
“People with arthritis need to find something that will keep them moving,” she says. “Never give up. Keep trying until you find something that interests you.”
Anderson has managed her arthritis with a healthy diet, aquatic exercise classes, and biologic drugs.
“These new crops of drugs are amazing,” said Anderson, referring to the biologic drugs introduced in the 1990s that are proven to slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis. “I have real limitations due to my arthritis. But these drugs mean others like me won’t.”
She graduated from Pike High School and Indiana State University, where she studied secondary education. After completing her student teaching in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., she relocated to the Sunshine State because the warmer climate eased her pain. Instead of teaching, she worked as a technical editor for a NASA contractor at Kennedy Space Center. But while she loved the work, she was in near constant pain and decided to go on permanent disability at 42.
Recalling her decision, Anderson tearfully said, “It was a difficult, life-changing decision, but one I knew was the best for me. I was sad to leave a job that I loved and all the wonderful people that I had worked with, but I was also happy and hopeful that I’d finally have the time to take better care of myself.”
She recently moved back to Indianapolis to be closer to her family and took up volunteering for the Arthritis Foundation while renewing her passion for creative writing. Voice recognition software makes it possible for her to write without increasing her pain.
“I’d like to write a novel whose main protagonist has arthritis,” she said. “There are memoirs of people with arthritis, but no fiction. It’s always just a background character or a side note about grandma.”
Anderson has had 22 arthritis-related surgeries – including nine hip replacements. She is a true veteran in the fight against arthritis and the epitome of why it’s so important for the foundation to fund cutting-edge research with the hopes of finding a cure for the disease.