Merrillville advocate takes arthritis healthcare issues to Capitol Hill

| March 21, 2013

Hundreds to urge Congress for more support

Special to Frost Illustrated from the Arthritis Foundation

Camille Church of Merrillville (Courtesy photo)

Camille Church of Merrillville (Courtesy photo)

MERRILLVILLE—Camille Church of Merrillville traveled 676 miles to Washington, D.C. this month to ask Congress to support people with arthritis through policies that will ensure more research, better treatments and greater access to care. Church also shared her story of the daily struggle of living with arthritis, the nation’s leading cause of disability.

Church, who has suffered with rheumatoid arthritis for five years, joined nearly 350 other Arthritis Foundation advocates March 4 through March 6 on Capitol Hill for the annual Arthritis Foundation Advocacy Summit.

“Many people are finding themselves facing a huge financial burden simply to get the drugs their doctors have prescribed because of discriminatory insurance practices and others are being forced to travel hundreds of miles just to see the closest doctor,” said Michele Gradalupe, vice president of advocacy for the Arthritis Foundation. “These are reasons why the Arthritis Foundation is so committed to educating our lawmakers on the devastating toll arthritis takes on our nation’s health and economy.”

For example, Church has managed to remain a staunch advocate. She has written several letters to her State Representative, Congressman Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.) to say that more needs to be done for people with arthritis. Church is a champion for more research, more public health initiatives and better access to arthritis treatments.

In Washington, D.C., Church and other advocates urged Congress to support HR460, a bill that that will make medications more affordable for patients with arthritis; fund a pediatric subspecialty loan repayment program to address the critical shortage of pediatric rheumatologists in the U.S.; and include “post traumatic osteoarthritis” and “rheumatoid arthritis” in the Department of Defense research program.

“Insurance is supposed to spread the risk in an equitable fashion among everyone who is insured. Yet, specialty tiers don’t do this. I feel that I am being unfairly targeted because my illness requires me to take more expensive drugs,” said Church.

Patients now have access to the benefits of research through the discovery and development of drugs like biologics, but excessive cost-sharing makes it extremely difficult for many to afford. Church is among the 50 million Americans suffering from arthritis.

Diagnosed in 2008, she remembers feeling symptoms as early as 2006. Along with rheumatoid arthritis, Church also suffers from the autoimmune diseases, Lupus and Multiple Sclerosis. Every day is a challenge. Camille struggles with joint pain, muscle stiffness, swelling of her extremities, and severe tingling all over her body. When asked about her daily challenges Camille replied, “I suffer from fatigue, occasional memory loss, confusion and seizures; some days are better than others.”

Despite the demands of day-to-day life, Church holds a bachelor’s degree in business management and a master’s in educational leadership. She has started work on her doctorate, and has decided to press forward taking one class at a time, keeping in mind scripture Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Although Church has suffered many emotional ups and downs, she is thankful for her son and parents, and feels blessed to be a mom. Prayer, meditation, yoga, disease awareness, and availability of medications have made life easier for Church. She credits her faith in God, church, and her sorority sisters of Nu Omega Psi Sorority for keeping her inspired to move forward.

Church has chosen to focus on what she can do, instead of focusing on what she can’t do. She has decided to give forward and form a non-profit organization to educate, motivate and inspire children. She said she knows it is essential for her to stay active and with a big smile, “I appreciate life!” The Arthritis Foundation recognizes the courage and bravery of Camille, and we are proud to have her attend the 2013 Advocacy Summit.

Striking one in every five adults, arthritis is a serious, sometimes life-threatening disease and also the nation’s leading cause of disability. The Arthritis Foundation (www.arthritis.org) is committed to reducing the impact of arthritis, which can severely damage joints and rob people of their ability to live normal lives, including children. The Foundation provides proven programs to help fight arthritis pain, pursues public policy on behalf of patients, and supports groundbreaking research for effective treatments and a cure.

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Frost Illustrated is Fort Wayne's oldest weekly newspaper. Your Independent Voice in the Community, featuring news & views of African Americans since 1968.

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