On casual Fridays, Meredith Boyd wears flat shoes to the office. “Girly ones” made of black patent leather with gold buckles. She loves the excuse to slip on flats because, frankly, sometimes her feet hurt – a lot.

Public relations executive, beauty queen, ventriloquist, “gymnast wannabe” and thoroughly positive person, Meredith has been walking a proverbial tightrope for more than half her life. When she was 15 years old, she swung her legs out of bed one morning and couldn’t stand up. “I was terrified,” she says.

For the next six months, a string of doctors looked for a diagnosis. She was alternately scared, discouraged, optimistic and frustrated. Relief that a diagnosis finally had been made was short-lived after she learned what juvenile arthritis really meant.

“I was mortified by some of the medical procedures,” she says. When she went to school in a leg brace, she endured the whispers: “Is she crippled? Arthritis? My grandmother has that.” Those were tough times, she says, but, “I just had to develop a thicker skin.”

The Power of Flexibility

At age 34, she’s a few years shy of her 20th high school class reunion, and she wouldn’t mind showing up so her classmates could see how she turned out.

An executive for an Atlanta public relations firm, Meredith also owns her own cosmetics company, does commercial modeling (you may recognize her from Lysol and Spray ’n Wash TV commercials) and mentors a group of high school girls.

As a little girl she wanted to be Mary Lou Retton. When she learned she didn’t have the knees and wrists for it, she decided to be a TV reporter. Along the way, she picked up scholarship money on the beauty pageant circuit. After college, she covered the news for a local Georgia TV station, but her fragile wrists and arms were no match for 50-pound cameras. So, she used what she learned backstage at the pageants to become a makeup artist, developed her own line of cosmetics and turned to marketing and public relations.

If your body isn’t flexible, she says, your attitude can be. “I try not to waste time worrying about what my life would have been without arthritis. Sometimes I think [my life] might not have been as good. Maybe I couldn’t have felt as useful,” she confides.