John Lynch didn’t let a diagnosis of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis prevent him from having a rewarding legal career. Nor has the disease prevented him from being an active and involved father to his two children.
But he’s felt the pain of arthritis in myriad ways.
“I have severe joint degradation in my hands and feet,” he said. “My feet impair me from running, but I swim. I have symptoms all the time and swimming helps alleviate the pain.”
So this year’s honoree for the Arthritis Foundation’s Spokane Jingle Bell Run/Walk will be helping at the registration booth instead of lacing up his running shoes.
At 11, Lynch was diagnosed with rheumatic fever, but while attending the University of Washington it was determined that his condition was juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. “It’s a very difficult illness to diagnose – especially in kids,” he said.
When he was diagnosed the only treatment offered was high dose aspirin.
“As a young man, I was losing ground in terms of function,” Lynch said. In fact, when he took the bar exam he was exempt from handwritten answers and allowed to dictate his responses.
As his children grew, shooting hoops or skiing with them wasn’t an option. Instead he focused on what he could do. He chose to open a solo practice, so he could set his own hours. This enabled him to spend time with his kids after school and coach their soccer teams. In addition, his wife, Vivian, has given vital support. “She’s been my mainstay,” he said.
In 2000, Lynch began a regimen of self-injected biologic medicine. “It has worked for me,” he said. While he stresses there is no cure for arthritis, new treatments make living with the symptoms easier.
He got involved with the Arthritis Foundation because he wanted to improve patient access to new medications. “I’ve been an advocate for the foundation both here and in D.C. since 2001,” Lynch said.
His professional skills as a lawyer and his personal experience of living with rheumatoid arthritis for 55 years have made him a passionate and effective advocate. He said his goal as honoree for this year’s Jingle Bell Run/Walk is to shine a light on this pervasive disease.
Event organizers hope to raise $115,000 to fund public education programs and research. Lynch would also like to see a board-certified pediatric rheumatologist open a practice in Spokane.
“I feel obligated to be an advocate for children,” he said. “I don’t want any children to have to go through what I went through.”