Chronic warrior Matt Iseman, RA and the importance of community

11.21.17

The enthusiastic host of NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior,” Matt Iseman, has rheumatoid arthritis (RA) – a reminder that chronic disease is often “invisible.” For many patients with invisible diseases, it can be difficult for even close friends and family members to understand what they are going through – making connecting with a chronic disease community important.

Iseman’s successful careers as a television host and comedian have given him the platform to share his story and perspective on chronic disease and RA. But before becoming a star or an RA patient, Iseman was a licensed physician. When he began to experience pain in his hands, then his feet, neck and back, he began searching for a diagnosis.

“It’s hard to believe that, as a doctor, I still struggled to get an accurate diagnosis for my condition for over a year and a half, but the blood test came back negative initially and I kept rationalizing the pain I was experiencing,” Iseman said in an interview on the website Verywell.com. “Eventually I was visiting my dad, who is also a doctor, and he sent me to a see a colleague of his who took X-rays of my feet, saw the damage and was able to diagnose me with RA. It was actually a relief to finally have a diagnosis.”

Like many patients, Iseman needed support and answers. Yet, the social media landscape was quite different in 2002 when he was diagnosed – making it difficult to connect with other RA patients.

“Social media did not exist in its current form, so getting information was possible, but connecting with people was much harder,” Iseman told Everyday Health. “I had access to medical information, but I needed to talk with someone who had rheumatoid arthritis – someone who had lived with it and who could explain the experience.”

Iseman continues to successfully battle RA, and he attributes this success to the community he has developed, especially his followers on Twitter.

“Sometimes you forget the best way to care of yourself, so it’s great to have a community to check-in with,” Iseman told Everyday Health.

Having a support system and community can improve your physical and mental health. Too often, we are unaware of the communities and support available. Please share your story today and tell us how you stay connected.