Have you ever wanted to be more of an advocate for your disease, or even just all people who live with a chronic condition or disability? Does the idea of being an advocate appeal to you, but it seems overwhelming? Where do you start? Jennifer explains how she had become an advocate in her college, workplace and community–all while fighting various illnesses and fatigue–and how you can too.
About Jennifer Pettit
Jenny Pettit is an auditor by day and health activist by. . .well. . . day, night, and any other time she can fit it in. First diagnosed with invisible chronic illnesses over a decade ago, Jenny has spent the years since reshaping the world around her. With experience developing programs for everyone from college students to corporate leadership, she’s happy to share what she’s learning.
The typical person being diagnosed with the autoimmune disease Sjogren’s Syndrome is a woman in her 40s. Jenny was diagnosed as a high school sophomore at 15. She believes being diagnosed with a progressive chronic illness so young coupled with the lack of familiarity her community had with Invisible Illnesses is what propelled her into activism. Her additional diagnoses, including Fibromyalgia, Dysautonomia, and more, only add to her conviction that people with Invisible Illnesses have many experiences and needs in common.
Jenny wants to leverage these common experiences to achieve three goals: raise awareness, connect patients with each other, and help them find the resources they need. Modern e-patients put a lot of effort into self-education and research, but each person is creating their own wheel. Imagine how much more we could accomplish – and how much faster we could do it – if we used each other’s wheels as a framework upon which we could build.
Through her grassroots organization UII – Understanding Invisible Illnesses, Jenny works with the different communities in our lives to achieve these goals. From local parishes to colleges to national (and international) companies, UII and Jenny are using social media as well as live programs to change the way our communities perceive and respond to people with disabilities. Her work has earned her several recognitions including KPMG LLP’s new Chairman’s Award for High Performance.