(Click here to read this story in Spanish.)
I have always been an advocate. I was born and raised in a suburb of San Juan, Puerto Rico. At a young age, my parents made a decision that profoundly changed my life. After a summer trip to the Pacific Northwest, my parents decided to leave Puerto Rico to be closer to family. Within a year, they sold and donated everything we had, with the exception of our family albums, heirlooms and clothing. Our new home was Beaverton, Oregon. Talk about culture shock!
Coming to the U.S. from Puerto Rico, I was shocked to experience and witness discrimination as a teenager navigating our public education system. Goodbye to my sheltered childhood! Through the remainder of my educational career, I became an advocate for myself and other students around me that faced any and all sorts of disadvantages.
My natural sense of compassion and intellectual curiosity forced me to overcome my reserved nature so that I could help others. Eventually, from junior high school and throughout college, I led and participated in workshops on topics that directly impacted my community, including racial and social-class diversity and issues affecting immigrant populations.
Advocating at NPF
Six months ago, I joined the team at the Patient Navigation Center, a resource and support center where we provide personalized assistance to people impacted by psoriatic disease. I’m passionate about advocacy work, specifically being a voice or a resource for those who may be less represented, less privileged and living with a chronic disease.
As a native Spanish speaker, I’m able to help people and their families who feel more comfortable communicating in Spanish. For example, I can help find specialists who also speak Spanish, and I can share educational resources about psoriatic disease and its treatment options. If a person or their family is having trouble paying for treatment, I can connect them to patient assistance programs that offer information in Spanish. And if these resources do not exist, I can lead the conversation on their behalf, assisting with paperwork and supporting them throughout the process.
Understanding chronic disease
When helping someone navigate their health care, speaking is only half of the equation. As people, our decisions are often shaped by our cultural backgrounds and personal histories. My biculturalism helps me understand these differences when helping people navigate and make decisions about their health care and treatment.
On a personal level, I also understand how the stress of living with a chronic disease can effect someone’s well-being. Stress has always played a huge part in my life, and it’s never acted well with my chronic asthma, migraines and food sensitivities. However, I believe that giving people the opportunity to acknowledge their stress and then allowing them to talk about it is relieving in itself.
Get in touch
At the Patient Navigation Center, we provide one-on-one assistance to answer all your questions about psoriatic disease. Whether you’ve been newly diagnosed or have lived with your condition for years, we can help you find specialists, save money on prescriptions, connect with others and more. Ask us a question, or talk to an NPF Patient Navigator by calling 1-800-723-9166 (option 1), emailing us or texting 503-410-7766.
Mercy Rivera is a bilingual Patient Navigator at NPF’s Patient Navigation Center, the world’s first personalized support center for people impacted by psoriatic disease. As a native Spanish speaker with a background in health insurance, she helps people understand psoriatic disease and access treatment in both English and Spanish.
Driving Discovery, Creating Community
This year, we’re celebrating 50 years of driving efforts to cure psoriatic disease and improve the lives of those affected. See how far we’ve come with this timeline of NPF’s history. But there’s still plenty to do, and we can’t do it without you! 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 funding to promote research into better treatments and a cure by joining Team NPF, where you can walk, run, cycle, play bingo or even create your own DIY event. Contact our Patient Navigation Center for free, personalized support for living a healthier life with psoriatic disease. And keep the National Psoriasis Foundation going strong by making a donation today! Together, we will find a cure.