Arthritis Disabled Single Mom Artist Seeks Grant Money To Live Autonomously
by Andrea B. Anton
(Pleasant Hill, California, USA)
My name is Andrea Anton. I am a 47-year-old single mother. I have three children, ages 28, 20 and 18. I live in Pleasant Hill, California with my two youngest children.
I started having the first symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis when I was 18 years old. For most of my life I did not think of myself as an ill person.
Despite swollen joints, pain, fatigue and confusion about the illness I went about my life as any healthy person would.
When I was 21, I put myself through college while caring for my young daughter and working three jobs. I became a graphic designer and ultimately had my own small design business. I later married and had two sons.
After staying home with my children for three years I returned to work. I did not have the time needed to rebuild a design clientele so I got a job in a law firm as a bookkeeper and also worked at my sons' preschool as an administrative assistant.
Sadly my marriage fell apart and I again needed to make more money. By now I had many contacts in the legal field so I put myself through a paralegal degree program.
It was a two-year program, which I completed, by way of an accelerated weekend program through UC Berkeley Extension, in four months.
Over the next few years my career took off. I worked with a wonderful firm who wanted to help me go through law school to become an attorney.
By now, though, my illness really got worse. I was in constant pain all over my body, my fingers and hands were permanently swollen and twisted, I was exhausted all the time and I became very thin due to malaise and nausea.
Every morning when I woke up I didn't know which joints would be swollen or how I could even get through the day. I was my own cheerleader, saying to myself, "Just get in the shower, you'll feel better," then, "Just go one step at a time, go get the kids ready for school, you can do it."
My employer was very supportive and understanding. At one point I had to take a three-month medical leave because a medical treatment I was receiving made me so weak that I could barely stand up. When I returned to work I was thereafter only able to work four days a week.
Finally in 2002 I became so sick that I just could no longer keep working. My doctors had been suggesting that I stop working for several years, but until that point I wouldn't hear of it. In 2003 I applied for and received Social Security disability. My official disability status is Permanent.
The financial hardship of being a single mother with a debilitating illness is difficult to reduce to words. It is constant, endless and at times seemingly hopeless.
Until June of this year I was receiving child support and alimony, which allowed my children and me to live fairly well, despite my rising medical costs. But now I am unable to meet many of my expenses, including my mortgage payment, food, doctor visits, and medications.
The type of financial support I am seeking is grant money. I already receive Social Security Disability. I exhausted my state disability benefits. I currently receive a medical and low-income discount on my energy bill.
I have applied to my medical plan for financial assistance with my co-payments and am awaiting their decision. I plan to move from my home to a small apartment within the next few months.
I am also an artist. I started painting after I stopped working so I wouldn't go crazy staying at home.
I also am a musician. I played guitar from the time I was 11 years old. I can't really play anymore because my hands are so weak, but I do sing with a band that I became involved in two years ago through a class at the community college.
I also write: poems, songs, short stories, and a journal. Perhaps I could be eligible for some sort of artist grant.
Thank you so much for your assistance.