One woman on coping with blindness and arthritis: ‘Joy is a choice’

Although many assume that arthritis is synonymous with old age, Joy Ross, who is a speaker and has a YouTube channel with 88,000 followers, wants people to know that there’s more than one type of arthritis — and the condition can affect younger people as well.

The mother of two was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis at just 3 years old. She also has uveitis, a form of eye inflammation, which left her with limited vision and, eventually, left her blind.

“Many assume arthritis is an old person’s disease that affects the joints, but arthritis can also cause a loss of eyesight,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

For Ross, coping with arthritis has come with its fair share of depression, but she manages to use social media platforms like YouTube to help inspire and uplift others. And although vlogging is something she never intended to do, the response to her channel has been overwhelmingly positive.

Joy Ross with her two daughters, Giorgianna and Isabella, and her husband, George. (Photo: Courtesy of Courtney Leiva)

Videos on the channel offer a glimpse into Ross’s life as a blind woman living with arthritis, as she has posted videos about her family and her guide dog, Antonia, and how she navigates daily life.

“I make videos about my life and how to live through joy,” she says. “I think people are drawn to the realness of it, as I am not sugarcoating any of my experiences.”

Simple day-to-day tasks can be very challenging for Ross. She shares that the fatigue from arthritis can be both debilitating and overwhelming. Choosing outfits and styling her hair are equally taxing, but she explains that clothing that is easy to put on, such as leggings, boots, and slip-on shoes, and a flat-iron brush for her hair can be lifesavers when her hands are aching.

Sadly, Ross’s two daughters, Giorgianna and Isabella, whom she shares with her husband, George, have inherited juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Ross has tried to stay strong for her family, saying that her faith and positive attitude is what makes her a walking example for her own children.

Joy Ross and her daughters. (Photo: Courtesy of Courtney Leiva)

She also inspires other children through her work with the Arthritis Foundation, where she teaches advocacy. Ross started working with the foundation after both of her daughters were diagnosed and continues to be an active member of the community.

“We went to the Arthritis Foundation Advocacy Summit in 2013 to learn how to advocate, and it was a life-changing moment for our family, learning how our story could truly make a difference,” Ross says. “After that, we decided that we would do anything for the Arthritis Foundation if it could make a difference in others’ lives.”

Most important, Ross wants those suffering from the disease to know that everyone can choose joy. Doing so, she says, helps give perspective and allows you to make peace with the things you can’t change.

“Joy is a choice,” Ross says. “We all have our struggles, but it’s important to be mindful of your blessings. When you do that, you start every day with joy.”

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