Two years ago, Barry Bonner, a financial analyst from the Birmingham, Alabama, area, couldn’t walk upstairs. He couldn’t walk up a gentle, graded slope, like his driveway. He couldn’t cut the grass. He was 30 and had recently been diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis.
When he first started developing arthritis, he suspected it might be PsA, as he had been diagnosed with psoriasis at 22. “My dermatologist agreed,” Bonner says. “He reminded me that I didn’t want to be treated earlier, and that if I had been, maybe this wouldn’t be happening.”
Bonner had initially refused what he calls “super-aggressive” treatments because he says he was concerned about lowering his immune system and the associated risks. “Had I known the severity of PsA and how debilitating it would be, I would have proceeded with treatment before it attacked my joints,” he says. “I wish I would have listened sooner to [my doctor’s] advice on being aggressive and taking care of the problem before it turned into what it did.”
The comeback begins
Bonner started his biologic in the summer of 2017. After just two injections, 90 percent of his psoriasis cleared. “I wasn’t expecting the level of improvement or the quickness,” he says. Now, he’s all cleared, save for some “discoloration where the plaques were.”
Years spent working at a desk job and leading a sedentary lifestyle meant that Bonner was “very heavy.” He was determined to lose weight. Running was out of the question, because the PsA had set into his hips – but he could ride, he says.
He pulled out the bicycle he hadn’t touched in years and discovered that riding was low impact. He could cycle every day and not hurt afterwards. Plus, his dermatologist encouraged the idea of taking excess weight off his joints. That was in August 2017. Since then, Bonner has lost 70 pounds. His original goal was to drop to 235 pounds, and he’s more than met that.
His tremendous weight loss has dramatically changed his lifestyle. Once he started cycling and the pounds melted off, he began lifting weights again and taking spin class. “I jump in with all my energy when I get into something,” he says.
His biologic isn’t his cure-all, he says, and certain weather conditions still cause PsA flares. But without the drug, he never could have sustained his exercise regimen and weight loss.
Bonner and his wife, Jessica, have a 2-year-old daughter named Darcy, who inspires him to stay healthy. Having a toddler means adjusting his schedule, for instance, exercising at 5 a.m. on weekdays. On Saturdays and Sundays, he aims to ride 15 to 25 miles. “It’s good for my mind, good for my body.”
Team NPF isn’t active in Bonner’s hometown (yet), but he’s worked around this by becoming a Virtual Rider. So far, he hasn’t been able to attend any Team NPF Cycle events; instead, he organized a 10-mile ride for family and friends in Birmingham on May 12. The money he raised counted toward the total of the Hamptons, New York, ride the following week.
His goal is to continue staying active and set a positive example for Darcy. “I don’t want her to think her father can’t do anything, that he just comes home and sits on the couch, that he’s disabled.”
Driving discovery, creating community
For more than 50 years, we’ve been driving efforts to cure psoriatic disease and improve the lives of those affected. But there’s still plenty to do! Learn how you can help our advocacy team shape the laws and policies that affect people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis – in your state and across the country. Help us raise funds to support research by joining Team NPF, where you can walk, run, cycle, play bingo or create your own fundraising event. If you or someone you love needs free, personalized support for living a healthier life with psoriatic disease, contact our Patient Navigation Center. And keep the National Psoriasis Foundation going strong by making a donation today. Together, we will find a cure.