Spoonie Story: How Miss Iowa for America Uses Her Title to Raise Awareness

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Greetings, salutations, so on, and so forth spoonie community. My name is Megan McCunn and I’ve been carefully rationing my spoons most of my life, managing endometriosis since middle school, officially joining the chronic illness circle five years ago when rheumatoid arthritis settled into my body. It was the struggle to obtain an accurate diagnosis that inspired me to encourage other patients to be their own advocate when it comes to their health, something that is so very important. 

I found very quickly how isolating chronic illness can be. Debilitating pain, harsh side effects from medications, no longer being able to do the job that I loved so much, all led to a very hermitous life. I’d always been involved in my community, completing service hours when attending Catholic school or in service clubs in high school and college but now I found myself on the sidelines unfulfilled. I decided to change that one day, and saw pageantry as the way to do it; a way to elevate the voice for my cause and help other arthritis patients like myself, and partner against our nation’s number one cause of disability. I wasn’t entirely sure where to start, but “you don’t have to be great to start, you just have to start to be great.”

I’m currently serving as Miss Iowa for America 2019, my fourth title. When I first started out, my focus was on simply connecting with people in my community and raising awareness for how arthritis affects people, 1 in 4 to be precise, and can affect anyone at any age, and comes in many forms. Every 5k I did, every interview I took part in, every art event I painted during was another chance to talk with people, to make that connection and impart information about the importance of being your own advocate, or even advocating for your loved ones. I then began working with the Arthritis Foundation on fundraising towards more programs and resources (and a cure!) for patients, as well as setting up a support network in my area of the state. This later led to my being chosen as an Honoree for their Jingle Bell Run 5k, their biggest fundraiser of the year. I also started working on a children’s book, which has been written and is in the illustration phase, depicting how autoimmune disease works and is treated, in a comic book fashion, since the immune system is sort of the super hero of the human body.

Through social media, I would connect with patients and share my experiences, good and bad, trying different treatments for joint pain relief, as well as ways to navigate the frustrating world of our super expensive medications, and what we can do when coverage on them is denied by insurance companies, or if a patient doesn’t have insurance, since it is so important to make sure patients have access to their treatments. ScriptlyRx has been a huge lifesaver for me when I did not have insurance briefly and it helped me be able to stay on my prescriptions with no hiccups, and is often lower than the copay with my insurance now, so I tell people to check them against their plan even when they do have coverage. 

I’ve had the unique opportunity where my volunteer work and professional work coincided. Working to help those in the chronic illness sector, I felt like I had found my life’s purpose, so when I found myself searching the web to see if yoga for arthritis was a thing, finding that it was, it was only natural for me to interweave the two. I’m always looking for more natural ways to relieve pain as I don’t wish to add anything else to my med list and really dislike painkillers as everything is so hard on my body in the first place. I tried yoga on and off over the years, never quite clicking with an instructor or knowing what I was doing, but once I completed my own CYT-200, I knew how to align myself correctly for poses, what poses were not suitable for someone like myself, and how to adapt them so that they were. It completely changed my life, helping my anxiety and my pain. I went on to study under Ann Swanson with Yoga for Arthritis, a program founded by Dr. Steffany Moonaz, developed with Johns Hopkins University, and funded by the Arthritis Foundation. This further helped me tailor my practice for arthritis and chronic pain patients and helped bring my dharma, my life purpose, full circle. 

As Miss Iowa, I have plenty of things I’d like to accomplish still. My plans are to establish another support network for arthritis patients, continue my goal of starting a JA Camp for the state of Iowa so juvenile arthritis patients can just be kids for a few days with other children who fully understand them, and I’d love to initiate a well of resources for newly single parents with disabilities since I feel they are at a great disadvantage. I’ve been there and faced the struggle where I suddenly had nothing and no way to protect myself and I find myself again not wanting anyone to feel lost or vulnerable like I have. 

We all find ourselves questioning why things may happen in our lives, certain paths taking us places darker than we may have wished, but I believe that we can create our own light, see our own stars within that dim space. 

Thanks for sharing your story Megan! We love meeting members of our community and hearing their stories. If you’d like to learn more about Megan, feel free to check out her site at https://feeltheheal.yoga/ or follow her on facebook or instagram. Want to share your story? We’d love to hear it!

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