An elderly lady places her hand on her husband's shoulder.

Diagnosis Sparks New Passion

Rheumatoid arthritis patient Ali Berger and her boyfriend.In November 2012, after months of tests, doctors’ appointments and dead ends, Ali Berger was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the young age of 27.

Though living in New York City, Ali returned to her hometown of Chicago to seek a rheumatologist closer to her family, and it was there that she got her diagnosis. When Ali recounts what it was like to look for answers while suffering from undiagnosed pain and exhaustion, she says, “It was a nightmare.” For Ali, the nightmare continued until she met Eric Ruderman, MD, her rheumatologist and new partner in the pursuit for relief.

Now, Ali manages her disease and leads an active life, an improvement she attributes to early intervention and a strong relationship with her rheumatologist. Ali still lives in New York City and flies home to Chicago at least once a year to consult with Dr. Ruderman. “A relationship with a rheumatologist isn’t the typical doctor/patient relationship. I’ve seen a lot of doctors in this process. Dr. Ruderman took me under his wing and supported me. He was compassionate, and if it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be so positive about my health.”

As treatments took effect and symptoms began to ease, Ali’s boyfriend recommended she look into the Rheumatology Research Foundation, an organization he’d heard about and thought could provide an outlet for her new-found passion for raising awareness of chronic disease and what can be done to help. It wasn’t until Ali connected with the Foundation that she discovered the “quarterback” of her care, Dr. Ruderman, was already an active supporter of the organization. She says that was all the information she needed.

Since then, Ali has become a champion of the Rheumatology Research Foundation. She works with the Foundation to share the importance of funding critical rheumatology research and building a more robust workforce to provide people across the country better access to treatment. Based on her own experience, Ali is passionate about patient access. “No child or adult should ever live in a city without access to a rheumatologist. But unfortunately, that’s what is happening. Rheumatic disease is growing at such a fast rate, it scares me.” Ali has redirected her career to include supporting people with rheumatic disease, as well as working full-time in public relations. She now chronicles her own experience in a book and is a regular contributor on RheumatoidArthritis.net.

 

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