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 ‘Electric Foot.’

Title: ‘Electric Foot’

Date Created: April 9, 2016

Medium: Colored pencil 

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

A: I had gone for a job interview. When exiting the building I missed a step and fell down just two steps, but I twisted my ankle under me and landed on my foot. My foot immediately swelled up and began bruising. I ended up in the emergency room to be sure nothing was broken. After a shot of morphine that barely took the edge off my pain, I was sent home with a splint that went all the way up to my knee. 

But compression triggers fibromyalgia pain flares. And my rheumatoid arthritis was immediately attacking my foot mercilessly. I went four days and had to take the splint off because the pain was so bad I could not tolerate it any more. And my RA and fibro were bouncing off each other daily making the pain worse.

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

A: I drew this piece because the flare got so bad I had to take the splint off, but it did not slow the flare down. After I took it off I was lying on the couch whimpering and crying because on top of my RA attacking the joints and the tendons and ligaments — which I tore in the fall — my fibro amped up. I felt like bolts of lightning were being shot through my foot. They were intense, sharp spikes of pain that I could almost trace across my foot. And all I could do was lie there and let them roll over me.

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

A: It makes me wince. I still remember jumping from the shooting pain, feeling like it would just never end. And this episode is why I almost never wear socks or shoes that cover all parts of my foot. It still does the same thing: triggers a pain flare. I learned that lesson the hard way that day. 

Follow Jennifer’s artwork and musings on Instagram.

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