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 ‘Hot and Melting.’

Title: ‘Hot and Melting’

Date Created: December 21, 2017

Medium: Gel ink on black paper

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

A: My knees have always been a bad area with my rheumatoid arthritis. They are one of the places I feel the most pain. I was having continuous knee pain that would not go away. My knee was hot and swollen and red almost nonstop. It just hurt so bad that one day after hardly being able to walk I drew this piece.

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

The pain was so intense that I just imagined the inflammation in my body kind of like sulfuric acid — melting my muscles and snapping tendons and damaging my ability to walk. It felt like if I got up my leg would just give out from under me. And if a doctor looked inside, they would find bone on bone with no shred of muscle left in my knee.

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

That intense, hot pain that made me feel like my muscles would just slide right off my bone. And the panic that was rising inside me: Would I be able to keep walking? Would I fall when I tried? How much unseen damage was being done?

Follow Jennifer’s artwork and musings on Instagram.

See Jennifer’s art about her RA and fibro flare, called ‘Radiation.’