Our Founder, Joanne Price, lived with the uncertainty of chronic illness for years before getting a diagnosis. It took 3 years to find a doctor who identified that it was "autoimmune"; after another 6 1/2 years, she was finally given the name of the disease that had changed everything about her life! She tried treatment after treatment, medication after medication all while watching her wellness and life crumble. By 2008 she was disabled to work. Looking for some support for herself she turned to the Internet. She found it less than satisfying to "post" her questions and feelings on a "board". Without direct responses, she felt like it was more like "venting" and most times it would be a week or more before she felt well enough to get back onto the computer. It was not easy to locate the responses to the posts she had made so long ago!!! She really craved the personal experience of a "face-to-face" support group. She set about to find something local, only to find the closest group an hour away. At that point in her illness she was only able to drive very short distances and where she was very familiar. She made the decision that when she felt well enough, she would start a support group herself! November of 2009 the first meeting of The Living With Autoimmune Disease Support Group met in the very same room where we meet today! Joanne's husband Patrick, who is a disabled Army Veteran and suffers from a traumatic brain injury and PTSD became disabled in 2005. He was eventually diagnosed with autoimmune (Sjogrems) in 2012, and in 2016, after a very serious hospitalization with a collapsed lung due to pneumonia and empyema, was diagnosed with deficient immunity of IGg Sub-class 3. He requires monthly infusions to support his immune system. It appears that those infusions may be lifelong...
Presently, Joanne brings hope to the group by having great success on her current treatment! She took baby steps working a few hours a week for two years and is currently working more, which requires more assistance running the group. Her husband Patrick was such a proponent of the group that he now helps in any way that he can even with his health struggles! We also have Robbin, our "Right Hand Woman" who also facilitates in Joanne's absence, and is our Marketing Liaison. She also wears the hat of Coordinator of Guest Speakers! And we have our own Addie has become our Director of All Things Creative! From logos to name tags, Addie is our go-to! It's important to remember that each person who has a hand in the successful operation of our group is dealing with a chronic illness and we each have to delicately balance our health with our desire to help others.
Since 2009 our group has grown from 3-4 faces at the table, to today where the norm is 12-14 active members coming together all sharing their experiences, knowledge and support for the common theme of helping others who walk in their shoes.
We are currently in the infancy stage of forming a 501(c) non-profit which we hope will be able to raise funds to help many more people! So far we have helped over 70 people at our group table. Members come and go; some become too sick to come out, others get better and no longer need the support... some members pop back in when they are having a rough patch... still others have reached out for the information, but have yet to come to the table to meet us... but we are here when they do.
Our operating costs are offset by donations collected at each meeting but we do not require a fee to attend.
As a member of the Autoimmunegroup, you will receive peer support, which means that everyone around the table is experiencing the same kinds of symptoms that you do, so when we say that we understand, we really, truly do understand.
We listen and we speak from the heart.
Please utilize our written Blog and Video blog for some instant support, as well as to get a feel for the kinds of conversations that take place at our meetings.
Trying out a group meeting can be a little scary. It may help to know that while everyone is given the chance to share at each meeting, it is not a requirement. No one will ever force you to speak! While our guidelines provide a trusting and confidential place to share, comfort can be found in just being present and listening to the others in the group.
After 90 minutes with our group, members leave with some new coping skills and strategies as well as with a sense of comfort and belonging.
Our facilitator, Joanne, would be happy to answer any questions you may have about our meetings. She will then invite you to come to a group meeting so that you can decide if this type of support is right for you. Feel free to text, email, or you can reach us by phone at (908) 358-7167 (Mon. - Fri. 4pm - 7pm). Please allow a day or two for us to get back to you as Joanne is working now and can only accept and make phone calls a few hours per day and there are days she struggles with pain and fatigue as well.
You don't have to feel alone anymore.