"Have a good time, enjoy life. Life is too short to get bogged down and discouraged. You have to keep moving, you have to keep going. Put one foot in front of the other, smile and just keep rolling."
- Kobe Bryant
When discussing his journey with psoriatic arthritis, Christian Jacobe, a 24-year-old from Camarillo, California, shared this quote from the late NBA superstar. Growing up in Southern California, Jacobe had watched the former Laker his entire life and leaned on the words of Bryant when he first started to experience unexplained back pain in late 2017.
After countless sessions with chiropractors and physical therapists, nothing was helping. Each subsequent month, Jacobe would experience pains and aches in different parts of his body, which was alarming for a young, active man. It wasn’t until March 2018, when he went in for a cortisone shot, that the source of his issues was discovered.
“Shortly after I got the shot, I started to get these strange spots and itchy irritations all over my body,” says Jacobe. “A month later, after a week in the hospital, I was diagnosed with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.”
The effects of the treatment, mixed with his newly diagnosed disease, hit Jacobe hard and fast, upending every facet of his life. Unable to get out of bed, he stopped working and relied on his parents to help him get through the most basic of daily tasks. He also had to wait to get insurance approval (through his parents’ insurance carrier) to start treatment, leading to a period of discomfort and uncertainty for Jacobe.
He credits his strong faith and loved ones for getting him through a dark time in his life. “Even when things got tough, I was just so grateful to be surrounded by family,” Jacobe says. He pointed to one instance when he couldn’t go downstairs to celebrate his sister’s baby shower, and his extended family and friends all came to him to provide prayers and support. It gave him the strength to carry on, he says.
If struggle brings out who we really are, then Jacobe can be celebrated for his optimism and positivity in the face of his life-altering disease. And for his altruistic character.
Jacobe found a treatment plan that agreed with him, and after months of not being able to leave his room unassisted, he slowly began to regain his mobility. “I was very thankful for the small victories, and the whole experience changed my entire outlook on life.”
After taking his first independent steps in months, Jacobe knew where his next steps would lead him.
Finding a Cause
After his diagnosis, Jacobe decided to soak up as much information on the disease as he could. This led him to NPF. Jacobe was impressed with the impact the organization was making in research and assisting those with psoriatic disease. He wanted to join in.
“I started researching the organization and discovered Team NPF,” he says. “There was a walk in my area coming up, and I was determined to make it happen, to fundraise and be a part of a great organization.”
Joined by his friends and family every step of the way, Jacobe regained more of his strength and mobility, and he raised over $1,000 for psoriatic disease research. Not only that, he saw that he was not alone in his psoriatic disease journey.
“It was so great to come together with a community that has dealt with my disease. Just being able to see that I’m not dealing with this alone, and being able to share my story with others, was a very positive experience,” he says.
Kicking Into High Gear
Going from being bedridden to competing in an intense race through an obstacle course in less than a year would be impossible for most of us. But not for Jacobe. After lending his support to the psoriatic disease community through Team NPF Walk, he decided to challenge himself and continue his fundraising by taking part in a Spartan Race in 2019.
If you’re not familiar with a Spartan Race, think of it as a playground on steroids. Competitors sprint through a course of mud, barbed wire and fire, pushing their bodies to the limit to get to the end. “It’s very challenging, especially for someone like me who is dealing with arthritis,” says Jacobe. “But pushing through it and thinking about the challenges that others go through with psoriatic disease was my motivation.”
Jacobe began training as much as his body would allow him to, and in September, he competed in the 5-mile race and obstacle course in Anaheim, California. He wasn’t looking to break any records – only to prove to himself that he could accomplish it. And after a grueling hour and a half, he crossed the finish line.
While the Spartan Race isn’t an official Team NPF event, Jacobe’s fundraising fell under Team NPF DIY. Jacobe says NPF was helpful in getting his fundraiser organized, including helping him create a custom page to promote his event on the Team NPF website.
While Jacobe still has the usual aches and pains associated with psoriatic arthritis, his treatment continues to work for him, and he’s back at work full-time. He’s now looking for that next test to prove to himself that his disease doesn’t control his life, and to support NPF.
“Through trials and hardships, have faith, persevere and believe that every situation we encounter in life is to teach us something,” says Jacobe.