Show Us Your Hands Annual Report: Our Hands Can! Community Stories

To celebrate the first anniversary of Show Us Your Hands! as a non-profit, the Board of Directors is writing a series of blog posts about the past year. Each of us writes about a different topic, relevant to us as individuals, to the organization and to the community. We welcome your comments and hope you’ll share these posts with others to continue the conversation. Today, Lene Andersen presents the first edition of our new feature Our Hands Can! — Community Stories. Modeled on our photo book, these are the stories of people living with inflammatory arthritis, their hands and their lives. 

Working with Show Us Your Hands! is a joy. I get to spend time with people I like, doing something important. The photo book Our Hands Can! is one of my favorite initiatives, combining our mission of raising awareness of inflammatory arthritis with our message of positivity and acceptance, of ourselves and each other. We all liked it so much that we decided to create a regular feature profiling members of the inflammatory arthritis community telling stories of how their hands give them support and are a conduit to happiness. 

Kim Curry, 53. Pennsylvania. Scleroderma, RA.

I need my hands to hold and play with my grandchildren, they are what I live for! This is the only way my grandchildren have known me. Anything that involves fine motor skills is difficult, however, I enjoy cooking for them when they're with me. I play board games with them, build Legos with my grandson and have tea parties with my granddaughters. It gives me pleasure to know that while arthritis limits much of what I do, there are still things we can do together. 

Tina Warner, 50, Minnesota. RA

Last year I reupholstered my dining room chairs, and was so proud of how they turned out. When you can take something that is worn out and ugly and make it look like new again just by using your hands, it really gives you a sense of accomplishment. I also crochet and recently taught myself how to crochet hats, scarves, and mittens. The hats give me the most satisfaction. I made my 7 year old granddaughter a matching hat, scarf, and mittens, and she just loved them. I will continue to create things with my hands as long as I can. 

Annette McKinnon, 65. Toronto, Canada. RA

I use my hands to connect with others who have RA. From the time of my diagnosis I craved conversations with others like me and now my hands enable that communication through Twitter and my blog. Sometimes the online conversations are so speedy and exhilarating it feels like actual surfing! I never thought I would say that because of the damage to my joints, but it does not hold me back from meeting new friends online and passing on the information I have learned over the years. 

In Memoriam: Flossie Doty, Florida.

Flossie Doty and her daughter Sharon Wickham were part of the Show Us Your Hands! photo book. Their experience of sharing inflammatory arthritis – Flossie’s RA and Sharon’s psoriatic arthritis — and their close relationship is a very special story. Flossie passed away earlier this year, but her spirit of determination and will to be positive lives on. The following is an abridged version of Sharon and Flossie’s story, as it appears in Our Hands Can!

 I have always loved spending time with my mother. At a very early age I told her that I was going to live with her forever. I didn't actually do that but have always lived nearby. My mother taught me how to sew and enjoy crafting. We have completed many creative projects together. I am beginning to teach my daughter to express herself with her hands through creative outlets.

I use my hands, even though they hurt, to comfort and love my child as my mother did for me. I want my daughter to learn compassion from my relationship with my mother. I want her to know that life continues regardless of the curveballs life throws at you.

Inflammatory arthritis may try to destroy your body, but it cannot diminish the love between mother and daughter. In fact, it can have the ability to help strengthen them. My mother and I sharing a similar daily struggle has deepened our relationship. 

Thank you to everyone who were featured in this first edition of Our Hands Can! — Community Stories. We look forward to continuing this feature in the future!

Lene Andersen
Show Us Your Hands! Director of Community Outreach
December 16, 2013