Leslie Rott Finds Community Through Chronic Illness Blog
When Leslie Rott launched her blog in April 2008, Getting Closer To Myself, her motives were simple. After being diagnosed with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, she wanted a place to update her friends and family about her condition instead of having endless conversations about it.
But as she’s continued to regularly update the blog over the last eight years, Rott has gotten more out if than she could have ever envisioned.
“Through the blog, I started meeting other people my age with chronic illnesses and made lifelong friends as a result. It was a total surprise because it felt like I was the only one going through this and then discovered other people who were,” she explained. “It became a two-way support system of having people there to support me, but then in turn connecting with others who I was also providing support to as well.”
Rott launched her blog just one week after receiving her diagnosis. She had been sick for years beforehand, but chalked her symptoms up to the stress of college and applying to grad school.
“I noticed that I was in pain after working out, but one day I woke up and was in pain all the time and it wasn’t going away,” said Rott. “I didn’t even connect the dots until I saw a rheumatologist.”
She admitted keeping her chronic illness a hidden secret because of the lack of support she received from the people she did tell. Some even suggested she drop out of school or not pursue a career in academia. But not only did Rott finish her Ph.D., she also went and got a second Master’s degree in health advocacy.
Her Master’s degree in health advocacy was largely inspired by her chronic illness. Like many people after first receiving their diagnosis, she began to think about how she wanted to approach her life and career. Rott ultimately realized that academia wasn’t her calling and that she wanted to pursue a career helping others. She’s now in charge of patient complaints for a company that specializes in long-term home care.
“My diagnosis made me re-evaluate my career. The Master’s was a result of what I wanted for my life and what I thought was important. I decided that I didn’t want to be in academia if I had limited time and energy to do things,” she said. “My illness brought me in a different direction that has turned out to be very fulfilling. I’ve taken what was a difficult part of my life and turned it into something positive.”
Her professional opportunities have also increased as a result of her blog, with Rott being invited to speak and share her story at conferences across the country. She’s now hoping to utilize the chronic illness community that has been forged as a result of her blog to help make a lasting impact on the healthcare industry.
“The online community is giving patients a voice they’ve never had before. So many people are doing such great work to try and improve healthcare as a result of our own collective and personal experiences,” she said. “Many of us have talked about how things can be improved and now Pharma companies are bringing us into the conversation. It’s helping us forge relationships not only with patients, but with key players in the healthcare arena to improve healthcare for all of us.”