Jennifer Walker, of San Antonio, Texas, lives with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia. She’s a computer software engineer by day, but her passion is her art — a medium through which she can uniquely convey what it’s like to physically and emotionally cope with chronic pain. 

We asked Jennifer, who is also a Patient Governor adviser to our ArthritisPower research registry, to share some of her most poignant pieces in a series we’re publishing called Arthritis Through Art. Here, she shares the backstory on a piece called ‘Radiation.’

Title: ‘Radiation’

Date Created: November 14, 2017

Medium: Colored pencil and ink

Q: What was happening in your life at the time that prompted you to create this?

A: I had pain that began in my lower back with my osteoarthritis, which then got worse triggering my rheumatoid arthritis. My RA spread to my other joints throughout my whole body. As the pain amped up in my joints it triggered my fibromyalgia. 

Then the RA and fibro kept pinging off each other through the night ever increasing in intensity. I could not get comfortable and the pain was so bad I cried several times that night, holding hard to my doggie for an anchor to reality beyond the cloud of pain. 

Q: Can you describe what we’re looking at and how it relates to experiencing a painful flare?

The red signifies joint pain and the blue/purple signifies fibromyalgia pain. When I hurt, I get hot. During this flare my whole body felt like it was radiating heat. I felt like every cell in my body was on fire and my pain could be seen as radiation waves outside my body.

Q: What do you feel when you look at this piece of art now?

I feel two things. The pain from that miserable night comes back and makes me wince. I also remember feeling so alone that night, like I was the only person in the world in pain. Even more alone than that — like the earth was devoid of people and the only thing that existed was the pain I felt and my body that could not be stopped.

Follow Jennifer’s artwork and musings on Instagram.

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