Rheumatoid arthritis advocate Ashley Boynes-Shuck partnered with us to talk about her personal journey and about Healthline’s new app for those living with RA.

RA Healthline is a free app for people living with rheumatoid arthritis. The app is available on the App Store and Google Play. Download here.

As a child, Ashley Boynes-Shuck was active and loved to play softball and basketball. She was also a cheerleader. Due to a diagnosis of juvenile idiopathic arthritis (previously known as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis) in middle school, she was forced to stop playing sports.

“My symptoms began with aching joints after pitching in a softball game. I also hurt my knee skiing and it was never the same since. Back then, my rheumatologist sadly suggested I quit sports,” Boynes-Shuck says.

In her 20s, she received a diagnosis of adult-onset rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Now that she is 36 years old, she has lived with RA for more of her life than she hasn’t. Over the years, she found ways to stay in touch with her inner athlete.

“I’m an active and outdoorsy person by nature and still love things like hip-hop dance, Zumba, water aerobics and swimming, kayaking, hiking, snorkeling, horseback riding, and yoga, but I do miss playing sports,” she says. “Softball was my life.”

Throughout her journey with RA, Boynes-Shuck has been prescribed different rheumatoid arthritis medications, including biologics, immunosuppressants, DMARDs, steroids, NSAIDs, and supplements. She currently manages her condition with acupuncture, massage, and steroids or NSAIDs as needed.

In addition to medical treatment from her doctor, she makes self-care a priority.

“Writing, playing music, my pets, husband, and family, being in touch with nature, and helping, coaching, and advocating for other RAers have all helped me to cope,” Boynes-Shuck says.

In 2009, Boynes-Shuck began working as a community development director and peer-to-peer advocate with the Arthritis Foundation.

“I found that it was helpful to have something positive and productive to focus on, and I found joy and gratitude in helping and serving others, spreading awareness, health coaching, and advocating,” she says.

“These are things I’ve felt called to do, all the while turning my negative situation into something useful and positive.”

She also launched the blog Arthritis Ashley and has published two books about her journey with RA.

Boynes-Shuck’s latest endeavor is teaming up with Healthline as a community guide for its free RA Healthline app.

The app connects those with RA based on their lifestyle interests. Users can browse member profiles and request to match with any member within the community.

Every day, the app matches members from the community, allowing them to instantly connect. Boynes-Shuck says the match feature is a one-of-a-kind.

“It’s like an ‘RA-Buddy’ finder,” she says.

As a community guide, Boynes-Shuck along with other app ambassadors RA advocates will lead a live chat held daily. Users can join in to participate in discussions about topics such as diet and nutrition, exercise, healthcare, triggers, pain management, treatment, alternative therapies, complications, relationships, travel, mental health, and more.

“I am so excited to be a community guide for RA Healthline. I feel passionate about rheum patients having a safe space and not feeling alone, and it inspires me to use my voice for good and help others who are in a similar situation to myself,” she says. “Again, it’s about making the best out of the hand I was dealt.”

While she has used Facebook, Twitter, and other websites and social media platforms to seek out RA information, she says RA Healthline is the only digital tool that she has used that is solely dedicated to people living with RA.

“It is a welcoming and positive place for like-minded individuals who are living and thriving with RA,” she says.

For users who want to read information related to RA, the app provides a Discover section, which includes lifestyle and news articles reviewed by Healthline medical professionals about topics related to diagnosis, treatment, research, nutrition, self-care, mental health, and more. You can also read personal stories from those living with RA.

“The Discover section is a really great way to find useful information all in one spot. I’ve been browsing it a lot,” Boynes-Shuck says.

She is also gaining knowledge and insight from community members.

“Honestly, everyone says I inspire them, but I feel equally as inspired by and grateful for my fellow RA patients. I have learned so much and have been so inspired by so many of my peers,” she says. “It’s been really rewarding personally and professionally, but it’s also been a great source of support to me to learn from and lean on other patients.”

Download the app here.

Cathy Cassata is a freelance writer who specializes in stories about health, mental health, and human behavior. She has a knack for writing with emotion and connecting with readers in an insightful and engaging way. Read more of her work here.