JULIET Roosendaal has been overcoming illness since she was only four years old yet has channelled her experiences into positive outlets.
Born in Sydney, Ms Roosendaal had not even attended her first day of school when she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
She was unable to walk until she turned six, her childhood was filled with hospital visits and she suffered chronic pain in her teenage years.
‘‘Unfortunately medication and treatment wasn’t as good when I was young so I sustained a lot of damage,’’ she said.
Her symptoms continued and soon she was also diagnosed with Lupus and Sjogrens syndrome.
But Ms Roosendaal used her hardships as motivation to make a difference and set up the Lupus Association of NSW with another recently diagnosed patient, Colleen Hook.
She was co-ordinator of the association for 16 years and in 1997 she decided to move to Newcastle to be closer to family.
‘‘My daughter had moved here and I had problems with my joints,’’ she said.
‘‘I’d had 18 orthopaedic surgery procedures and was looking at even more.’’
Having already worked with Arthritis NSW she volunteered at the Hunter office and would stay there until its closure in 2003.
During that time she was the driving force behind organising the Hunter Fibromyalgia Support Group after being diagnosed with fibromyalgia soon after arriving in Newcastle.
She also helped fund the arthritis clinic at John Hunter Hospital.
‘‘I’d always done volunteer work so when I came to Newcastle it just felt natural to continue,’’ she said.
‘‘I joined the Scleroderma Lupus Support Society as a committee member in the same year and worked in publicity and fund-raising, but I’ve been the president for the past two years.’’
Ms Roosendaal’s symptoms are mostly invisible and can often be misunderstood.
Muscles and joints ache and there can be widespread stiffness in the body, causing weakness and a lack of energy.
People diagnosed often find it hard to sleep and constantly feel exhausted.
Ms Roosendaal is intent on raising awareness and getting as much funding as she can for the ventures she helps.
‘‘I feel you should turn negatives into positives and volunteering can help do that. It helps to have a purpose in life, helping the community,’’ she said.
‘‘I believe that we should volunteer; we’re all part of the human family. My experience of suffering has some value if I can help someone else, which I think I have done.’’
Ms Roosendaal is constantly looking for more volunteers in the Hunter, a place she said has a ‘‘wonderful lot of people’’.
‘‘Some people don’t realise that they have a lot to give, most have years of experience and wisdom that is really useful but some see themselves as burnt-out,’’ she said.
‘‘Volunteering is very worthwhile, it’s better than sitting at home on your own.’’