Friday, December 7, 2012

Just a post to say Thank You to all of the wonderful people that donated to Alex's Alliance for the Jingle Bell Run!! 

Eddie and Peggy Kasaba
Anne Kingsbury
The Naglevoort Family
Tricia Kingsbury
Faith Steele
Karen Kingsbury
Luana Wilson
Mike and Stephanie Barnes
Danielle LaCoste
Jennifer Williams
The Lim Family
Shelby Lloyd
The Kane Family
Douglas Gilbert
Justin and Dylan Head
Kim Allen
Carol Gidner
Mr. Cannon
The Rochelle Family
Kathleen Oversmith
Lisa Scott
Barbara Perdue
Cindy Skeber
Noel and Julie Mechelin
Victor Edinian
Tom and Sue Barnes
Sheila Graciano
Margy Lara
Donna Crosby
Carol and David McCall

A special Thank You for all our Alex Alliance team members!  
Tom Barnes
Sue Barnes
Peggy Kasaba
Ed Kasaba
Elizabeth Allen
Sarah Braithwaite
Lori Cripps
Sara Cripps
Madi Estrada
Gabie Hanson
Skylar Mason
Monica McDonnough
Emily Sisavath
Chloe Steele
Faith Steele
I also want to give a huge shout out to the Mason Family who are all coming down to Balboa Park and volunteering for the morning!  They are great friends of ours and their daughter (Skylar=listed above) is a member of Kierstens scout troop. So, as you can see everyone has really stepped up to help us out!  Truly blessed!!

Plus....we are so excited to have my Aunt Anne, cousin Lynne and her girls Courtney and Jessica coming all the way from Tennessee for the event!!

We are so amazed by everyone's support!! This is such an important cause to our family and we love seeing other people getting involved too. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

World Arthritis Day!! 2012

Well, today is World Arthritis Day!  In the past I would see such days as World AIDS Day or Diabetes Awareness Day.  There would always be some ribbon associated with it.  You know the ribbon that is a different color depending on what the illness is. Well, for the first time ever I get it!  I really get it.  It doesn't matter what the color is but what it represents.  The fact that we all put on a certain color doesn't's the fact that we had to consciously think about Arthritis while we were putting it on.

If you read other blogs like mine you have read others complain about how Arthritis kinda gets the shaft.  It's not that we don't feel like Breast Cancer Awareness, Cystic Fibrosis or AIDS is is but we would like to be heard too.  In a weird way, arthritis isn't as popular as other diseases out there. Lets face it....when have you ever seen a well known super star on a talk show in tears talking about their loved one with arthritis.  Or watched a three minute commercial that brought you to tears because it reminded you of an important woman in your life that you have lost.  Plain and simple people just don't talk about arthritis.  Why?

Arthritis affects millions of people in the world.  If affects more children than many other diseases combined. Many arthritis patients have to take chemotherapy to treat their symptoms.....Alex does. Others have to go to Cancer and Dialysis Centers or hospitals to get infusions that take up to 8 hours to be pumped through an IV and into their bodies. Alex is only a couple steps away from this if her body doesn't go into remission soon!   Just like Cancer, Arthritis can spread into other areas of the body if not treated correctly or quickly enough.  And, just like Cancer there is a chance it could go into remission.  But, did you know that it can also be life threatening....just like Cancer? Yet people still associate arthritis as something their grandma has.  It is much much more than that friends!!

The goal of myself, my family and pretty much every parent of Juvenile Arthritis and of course the Arthritis sufferers themselves is AWARENESS!!!  I want there to be a 6 hour concert/telethon on tv with all the hottest celebrities out there.  I want to open a magazine and see a BLUE ribbon and a pair of hands that talks about how important funding and research are. I wan't to see pictures of beautiful children with a simple line that says "Kids Get Arthritis Too" underneath.   I want fundraising walks and runs that draw thousands and make millions!

So today on World Arthritis Day I did all I could.  My family and I wore our blue, we made cookies with blue frosting to hand out to friends, I wrote about Arthritis multiple times on my facebook account, my twitter and even Instagram.  I have done all I can for today but I am not finished. With the help from all of us we can bring a bigger awareness to arthritis.  Lets make it just as well known as any other terrible disease out there so that we can get help!  We need help by more research, more medicines, more doctors and bottom line more money!  Will you help me do this?  Together we can!!

Finally, I leave you with pictures of family and friends we love!  They chose to wear blue today for Alex but also for all of you who suffer out there.
Photo: Blue
My brother Mike
Photo: Pattie, Wearing Blue to celebrate World Arthritis Day. I like your post On Arthritis facts that says there are currently 171 different kinds of arthritis including rheumatoid, psoriatic, lupus, gout and fibromyalgia.
Michael and Matthew Lim
My sons best friends
Photo: Wearing blue!!
My cousin Sue
Photo: Hanging out in hotel, doing what teenage boys do. EAT!  But hey, he's doing it in blue.
Chris Cloud
A JA friend of ours
Photo: Wearing blue jeans and shirt for World arthritis awareness day.
My husband Ben who sent this from Georgia
while on his business trip......after hours!
Photo: Wearing blue!!!
My cousin Tricia and Aunt Anne all the way from 
My cousin Lynne also from Tennessee!! 
Alex's hand....swollen but proud to support! 
Alex brought cookies and coffee cake to school and 
received about $6.00 in donations!

I also had notes from friends on my facebook that did not post a picture but did wear blue.....
Ceci Mason, Heather Craig, Sara Cloud, Jody Mitchell, Michelle Nagelvoort and my mom Sue Barnes! Let me know if I've forgotten anyone!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Getting Committed

No, I don't mean getting committed to the hospital.  I mean getting asked to join the San Diego Arthritis Foundation Committee.  What does that mean?  Well, to be honest I am not sure.  What I do know is that this "committee" meets once a month and talks about upcoming AF events.  I'm sure there's a lot of planning going on too.  
So, to be completely honest when they asked me I recoiled just a bit.  "What? You want me?  To do what exactly?  Will I have the time?".  All these questions went on in my head but then I thought about it.  There have been so many signs and pushes into this direction.  I truly believe everything happens for a reason. It started quite a while ago when the online AF approached me about writing a blog for their site....which I never did.  Then my doctor mentioned that I should attend different AF events here and there and never went.  Then Alex gets picked by the AF to be their honoree.  Then I get the email asking me to make this commitment.  What if GOD....yes GOD is trying to tell me something....lead me somewhere.  So...I said YES!!!  I will join the committee...ha ha!!  

The way I look at it, being a volunteer benefits them and myself and our family.   When your child suffers from something you feel very alone.  Even though my previous post was all about my support system you still feel like no one truly understands......unless they are going through the same thing.  I need my old friends to keep my life as normal as possible but I also need new ones to make me feel whole.  Over the weekend I had the chance to go to an Arthritis Foundation event.  A symposium focused on Juvenile Arthritis.  There were about 20 families there.  It was so nice to be in a place where I could walk up to just about any of them and talk about our journey and know that they truly understand.  It was so comforting.  

Being part of this committee will enable me to not only raise awareness but hopefully gain some new life long friendships.  Hopefully I can help the foundation with my desire and drive to get the community together and support each other.     So yes please....commit me!!!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Team Huddle

Today it dawned on me how much the statement "there's no I in team" relates to Alex's journey with arthritis.   Yes, she is the one with the disease but there are so many there behind her to help us get through it.  Let me introduce them to you.....

Family: Yes, of course her dad and I are part of her team and even her brother and sister (sometimes, ha).  But let's not forget my parents Sue and Tom.  Did you know that it was my dad who drove us down to Children s Hospital and stood beside me as I learned to give Alex her first shot.  My mom is always telling me about new things she has learned  regarding arthritis and probably Alex's #1 cheerleader! She even offered to call me every Wednesday and Saturday night just to remind me to give Alex her shot! Amazing!

 My extended family including my brother Mike and his wife Stephanie, my cousins Tricia, Sue, Lynne, Karen and Eddie and aunts Anne, Peggy and uncle Ed...they have all been so awesome in praying for Alex and keeping updated on her treatment.  We love and appreciate them all so much!
Dr. Llona Szer

Doctors & Medical Support: If it wasn't for our Pediatrician, Dr Lauren Choi, suggesting we get a second opinion from a rheumy even after ALL of Alex's tests came back negative we would have never known Alex had arthritis.  Or, we would have found out after much more damage was done to her joints!!  Our next angel was Dr, Llona Szer (pronounced sher or Cher), Alex's rheumy.  Now, we didn't see eye to eye at the beginning and I even left her office in tears once after she yelled at me for not taking things serious enough but boy do I love her now!  Not only is she the Director of Pediatric Rheumatology for Children s Hospital, San Diego but also the recipient of many awards and accolades! Alex adores her and I'm pretty sure the feeling is mutual since she is the one who nominated Alex for the Arthritis Foundation Honoree.  I'm already dreading the day when Alex has to find an adult rheumy....but I have a feeling we will be in touch with Dr. Szer forever!
Alex's team also includes an Opthomologist, dermatologist, physical therapist, and all the MRI tech's, the ones that draw her blood, the nurses and the appointment makers!

Friends & Co-Workers: As the mom of a child with an autoimmune disease I walk a fine line.  One side is living life as if nothing was wrong, all is great in the world.  The other is living in the throws of "why me?", "why my daughter", doctors appointments, needles, pills and frustration.  I try to live right in the middle.  Sometimes I fall over into the dark side and that is where you, my dear friends come in!  The friend that sticks out the most in my mind is Michelle Naegelvoort.  Michelle and I met when her daughter Alexandra (yes you read that right) and my Alex went to school together in K-1 grades.  My Alex left that school to attend one closer.  A few years later facebook arrived along with lots of friends I hadn't seen or heard from in years.  Michelle was one of them!  In fact, except for once in 2005 (i think) we have not seen each other in over 8 years (and she only lives 25 minutes away!).  So it turns out her son Dutch also suffers from an autoimmune disorder, so we have a lot in common.  Our kids go to some of the same doctors and have been on some of the same meds.   It has been amazing to have someone to talk to that has gone through exactly what we are going through and give great advice or just listen!   Anyway, our late night chats on fb mean the world to me and someday we will actually get away for our girls trip to Disneyland like we keep talking about!!
I have other friends too that are always there to support and listen! Girl Scout moms, school friends, church friends...the list could go on and on!

Support Groups: Yes, I belong to a support group....sorta.  There is a group of amazing moms online (facebook) that I have contact with on a daily basis.  The group is specifically for moms of kids with juvenile arthritis.  We are always helping each other with advice, comforting when something is going wrong or jumping for joy when a child finally goes into remission!  We are from all over the world...some from as far as Australia!  I think we would all agree that having this group has been one of the best things that has happened in this journey!  Someday we will have to plan a meet up!!

So, as you see I could go on and on.  My point in all of this is that Alex could not be going through this alone!  Each one of you hold a special position in the team.  You may be the play maker ,the star player, the ref or the one on the bench who gets pulled into the game when the going gets tough!  I can't thank you all enough!  And thank you for being part of Alex's Team!  Now it's time to go beat this!!!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Awww Septermber!  I love this month.....summer is coming to an end and fall is on the horizon.  All the kids start a new year at school with a fresh slate!  The crazy thing is that San Diego just started getting warm!  We had a very cool "summer" but ever since school has started it has been in the 80's!

Other than that we had a pretty quiet August.  Kiersten turned 11 and is having a sleepover this weekend to celebrate with her friends.

I have a weird thing going fingers on my right hand are all the time.  I went to the doc and she is pretty sure I have a pinched nerve in my neck.  I have to get an MRI and see what's going on with it.

We have a meeting next week at the Arthritis Foundation to go over the upcoming events.  The official Jingle Bell Walk kick off party will be on 9/25 at Road Runner Sports!  This will be her first public event so fingers crossed!! Bottom line it will be lots of fun!!!!

Well, that's it for today.  Don't forget to go here to sign up for the Jingle Bell Walk!!  If you are not local you can always make a donation.....any size counts! You can also search to see if there is a walk in your area and start your own team!!  No child should have to deal with arthritis!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Beauty Rest or Extreme Fatigue?

Hello friends.  Hope you are all having a great summer!  It has been a very mild summer here in San Diego.  The seasons really are changing!  We have not used our A/C once this summer which is really crazy!  Hey, I'm not complaining....I love a breezy 74 degree day like this!!

The girls start school in a week.  I'm not looking forward to it at all.   Carpooling, homework, early bedtimes and oh yeah homework aren't for me!  But, it is what it is.  Alex will be a high schooler!  9th grade!  I remember 9th grade like it was yesterday.  My first boyfriend, lockers, Friday night football games, dances, etc.  I am so excited for this time in her life!

Kiersten will be attending the same school but entering Middle School. It's a K-12 Charter school.   My youngest Ryan will still attend the elementary school down the street.  He will be a 4th grader.  He has the same teacher that Alex and Kiersten both had so that will be nice.  We really like her and she knows our family well.

Alex seems to be doing well......that is when she is not asleep.  I have never seen someone sleep as much as her.  I think what has happened is that her sleep times have been  turned around.  She is staying up so so late because she can't fall asleep but then she sleeps all day.   Last night I told her to go to bed at 11 pm and as of right now, 11:44 am she is still out.  I have gone to rouse her a couple times and she can hardly keep her eyes open to talk to me.

I have chatted with a few other RA moms and they all say their kids are the same. It could have to do with the fact that her body is constantly attacking itself, or the meds, hormones or that she simply needs the sleep.  I told her we need to start keeping a log so that we can see if there is any pattern to it. When she is awake she is fine.  She is full of energy and  happy.  I guess the reason it concerns me is because it seems to be getting worse.  I don't know how she will be able to sit through a day at school let alone come home and do homework.

Her appointment is in a couple weeks but I am hoping to get it moved up.  I will be sure to let you know.  So, bye for now.  Have an amazing week and I hope that wherever you are, you are able to get out and enjoy some great weather!!  Happy Summer!!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Alex's Bio

We were asked to come up with a bio to send to the Arthritis Foundation to use for a press release and I thought I would share the finished product here.....

Alex Ochoa is a 14 year old ninth grader at Guajome Park Academy.  She lives in Oceanside with her parents Pattie and Ben, sister Kiersten and brother Ryan. She loves the internet, her iPod and hanging out with friends.  There’s just one thing that sets her apart from other teens, juvenile arthritis.It all started in August of 2010. While out shopping Alex noticed how the cute rings at her favorite store wouldn’t even fit over her knuckles. Concerned by the swelling in her hands her mom made an appointment with her pediatrician.

Her doctor suspected it was Lupus or Arthritis and ordered lab work right away.  Even though the labs came back clear her doctor wasn’t convinced and referred her to rheumatologist, Dr. Szer.  After an exam and hearing how psoriasis runs on her dad’s side of the family Dr. Szer was convinced Alex had Psoriatic Arthritis and ordered an MRI.  Unfortunately the MRI confirmed her suspicion.

Alex started with the medication Methotrexate (MTX). MTX is a mild chemotherapy drug used to suppress the immune system.  Due to the dangers of this drug Alex now has to have monthly blood labs done to make sure further damage isn’t being done to her organs. This medicine makes Alex feel very fatigued and nauseas for a day or so after taking it.  This is commonly called a "MTX Hangover" in the juvenile arthritis world.

After another MRI showed that the medication wasn’t helping her doctor prescribed Enbrel.  Enbrel is an injectable medication that is given to her twice a week by her mom. Many people are becoming more familiar with this medicine due to the commercials featuring PGA golf pro Phil Mickelson.  He also suffers from Psoriatic Arthritis like Alex.

After months of being on both medications her most recent MRI is showing a slight improvement. This is a small step but one in the right direction.  The goal is to have Alex’s arthritis go into remission.  Since there is no cure for arthritis Alex will have it for the rest of her life.  But, with the right medication it is possible for her to live symptom free.

Having arthritis has been hard for Alex and the whole family.  The hardest part so far for Alex has been the fatigue.  There are days when Alex will get home from a long day at school and head straight to bed.  Last year she missed over 20 days of school due to illness, doctor appointments or just fatigue.

Her good days are spent acting with her Advanced Drama Group at her school, hanging out with family or friends, catching up on her favorite show Doctor Who and doing art. But without a doubt, anyone that really knows Alex knows her biggest passion is reading.She is hardly without a book and even read the entire Harry Potter series during her 7 week summer break a few years back.

Her parents credit their Christian faith and family in getting them through the tough times. They spent quite a while educating themselves on arthritis and her mom even started a blog ( to reach other parents out there who are going through the same thing.

The future looks bright for Alex. She is entering her freshman year at high school and hopes to go to art school afterwards.  Her lifelong goal is to someday work at Pixar Studios in the animation department.

Being chosen as the Arthritis Foundation Jingle Bell Walk Honoree has been a thrill for Alex and the entire family.  She takes this position very serious and looks forward to educating her family and friends on arthritis.  She hopes to speak to her classmates, peers and church about arthritis awareness, symptoms to look for and what needs to be done to find better medications and even a cure someday.

She started her team, Alex’s Alliance for the upcoming Jingle Bell Walk and hopes to get at least 50 walkers to join her.  Family, friends, neighbors and even her Kindergarten teacher have already stepped up to say they will join her team. She also has aunts and cousins coming all the way from Tennessee to support her on the big day!

The Arthritis Foundation is a wonderful organization that helps bring support and awareness to this awful disease.  Working with them has been an honor for the entire Ochoa Family.

Friday, July 13, 2012

So excited to share some big news with all of you!!  Alex was chosen to be this years Arthritis Foundation Jingle Bell Walk- San Diego Honoree!!  

We were thrilled when we received an email from the AF  asking us to come meet with them.  We are not too sure what it will involve for sure but it will be fun!!  We have already started a walk team called Alex's Alliance.  If you are interested in joining our team you can just go HERE.

We are so happy to bring awareness to Juvenile Arthritis and help people realize that yes kids get arthritis too!  

Monday, March 5, 2012

Hello friends...thanks for stopping by!  It's March now.....we are in the thick of busy birthday time!!  Alex turned 14 on February 25th!  It was a very fun day!  She was in a play through her Advanced Drams group at school.  Afterwards we had cake with her cast and crew!  It was great to see how loved she is!  She did a great job and made us very proud!  This Saturday is my husband Ben's birthday and the following day he and Alex are going to Disneyland to celebrate their birthdays and have a very special daddy/daughter day.  Next week on the 16th I turn 41...and on the 19th my son will be 9! Fun Fun times ahead!  

 Alex is in her 3rd month on Enbrel.  She will be getting her labs done (blood work) this week and has her appointment with her rheumy on Monday the 12th.  At this point I have no idea if it is doing anything.  By looking at her hand you can still see swelling so I think the only way to truly know is by doing another MRI.  I am not sure if the doctor will order one right away or not. 

I was really happy to meet (virtually) some other moms last month who have children with Psoriatic Arthritis.  I even met someone who has a daughter with arthritis without the psoriasis so it will be nice to keep in touch and compare stories with each other.  Her daughter is a bit younger and unfortunately has more pain and symptoms than Alex.  She just started Enbrel so I am praying she gets lots of relief soon!  

For anyone just starting this journey I wanted to get you started with some great sites.  There is a ton of information there for you!  

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


So after that last post I received a few questions for me.  Don't worry....Alex is still going to answer your questions too. I will just post the questions and you can scroll down and read any you are interested about.

  • 1.  Do you have Psoriatic Arthritis or Psoriasis? No I don't but my husband and his mom have Psoriasis.  His mom also has arthritis as well. 
  • 2.  Does Alex have Psoriasis? No, not yet anyway.  Only 15% of people with Psoriatic arthritis DONT end up getting Psoriais.  
  • 3.  Will it ever go away?  Well, her symptoms can go away (remission) but she will have it for the rest of her life. 
  • 4.  What's the hardest part for you as a parent?  I would have to say the worry about it all.  You worry if these medicines can be doing permanent damage, about her long term prognosis, what if we lose our insurance and on and on.  But, I would have to say that I have a lot of confidence in her doctor and feel that everything we are doing is the best we can do at this point.  I pray about it a lot too and have our church and friends praying for her all the time. 
  • 5.  Will your other kids have it?  We really don't know.  I was just reading that it is not extremely common for siblings to get Juvenile Arthritis.  So, we will just wait and see. 
  • 6.  What's one thing that you want other people to know about PA?  I think what I want everyone to know is that yes kids can get arthritis too and it can be very serious.  We are so so lucky that Alex has a very mild case but there are thousands of children out there that are wheelchair/home bound because their disease is so debilitating they can not function.  I had no idea until Alex was diagnosed.  These families need our support through prayers and donations so that a cure can be found! 
That's all I have for now.  If you have any questions for Alex or me just leave a message.  Thanks again for reading about our lives.  It means a lot to me!  

Monday, February 6, 2012

Coming Soon.....

Wow, I have had so many new visitors in the past 24 hours!  This is so exciting!  Thank you all so much and welcome!!  
So, a while back I was having a conversation with Alex about her arthritis and her involvement in it's community.  You see,   it's all so new to us and we were not even really aware of what was out there for her.  So I went searching on the trusty internet and yes I found some information but  I wanted to find other moms, other teens, other experiences of what worked for families and what didn't, advice on what to tell your friends when they ask why you have missed 12 days of school already and why your mom has to give you shots......I just couldn't find what I was looking for.

So, it got me thinking... there has to be more families, kids, moms, grandparents, teachers etc out there who feel the same way.  This illness is just as serious as some other highly talked about ones yet not many people know about it.  I started this blog when Alex was first diagnosed to keep in touch with my family to keep on top of how Alex is doing but then I thought....why not expand this and reach others who need help and answers too.   

I kinda left it up to Alex....after all she is the one with arthritis not me.  Well, she wants to start a blog/website for other teens dealing with this. It will be a sub blog attached to this one where she will write about topics related to being a teen with arthritis and other fun stuff too  She is so excited about it.  She is starting with a video greeting/ q & a series.  I will post the video here when she is finished but for now she has a request for all of you.....

Please leave a question in the comments for can be whatever you'd like....about Psoriatic arthritis, what it feels like, what she wants to be when she grows up, favorite tv shows etc.  You can also leave topic requests.

Your support in this means so much!  By the way, I have also been in touch with some great ladies at the National Psoriasis Foundation and we are very excited about doing some great things with them in the future.  

Friday, February 3, 2012


Hello and happy February to you!!  This year is just speeding by and we are now entering our crazy months.  Between Feb 25th and Mar 19 four out of the five of us celebrate our birthdays!!  It's fun but always a bit crazy...planning birthday parties, dinners, gift giving etc.  This year has even a couple extra Feb bonuses with a concert on the 17th and Alex acting in her school play the week of the 25th.. Lots of crazy fun ahead!!

 Alex is doing very well.  She has been getting her injections for just over a month now.  You can't really see a difference by looking at her hands yet but I pray it is doing miracles on the inside.  She is tolerating her shots reactions, rashes or rejection of any kind.  She has had some injection site redness and tenderness but that is completely normal.  It has strangely become very giving her a shot.....just like me giving her a tylenol or something.  She doesn't complain about having to get the shot and my hands no longer shake while giving it to her!  

On a personal note I had a tough day recently thinking about it all.  I know we are so so so lucky that she is not in pain.  She has said that she does feel some stiffness in the morning but not much.  What got me was reading about other patients who have Psoriatic Arthritis along with very severe psoriasis.  Alex does not have  psoriasis at this point in time but the odds are against her....her grandmother and father have it so it doesn't look good.  Ben's ( her dad) didn't get really bad until he was in his 30's.  Having a visible skin disorder can be very damaging for peoples self esteem. I worry that if she gets it before she has had a chance to mature into a strong woman that it could somehow hinder her.  I read stories about kids being teased and tormented because of their skin issues. It just breaks my heart.  All I can do is just pray that she never has to deal with any of it and if she does get it that she handles it with grace.

Did I mention that her birthday is February 25th and she will be 14!!  Wow....unbelievable!  She is becoming such an amazing young woman!  She still loves reading, theater, Disney and oh yeah reading! She is beyond excited for the new Hunger Games movie coming soon!
Well, thanks for reading another update! As always please leave a comment or note for Alex....she does read them.  Take care!!