Pam Snow has never owned a crystal ball. Even if she did, she says, she wouldn’t have believed what she had coming: arthritis. It was just too ironic. Pam’s lifework has been helping others with arthritis, but suddenly it was her life.

“I’m a victim of my occupation,” she says jokingly. Pam, 47, from Warner Robins, Ga., has had a successful career promoting the benefits of exercise for arthritis. She has been the Arthritis Foundation’s liaison to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which provides funds to states for arthritis fitness and educational programs.

Pam’s “arthritis resume” goes on. She’s done the Joints in Motion marathon four times to raise funds for research. She has received national certification to train instructors for the Foundation’s Exercise and Self-Help Programs, and frequently teaches the classes.

In the midst of all of this, while training for a half-marathon in 2004, Pam’s knees started to hurt. “At first, I shrugged it off,” she says. “After I didn’t pay it a lot of attention, the swelling came back.” Her doctor confirmed she had osteoarthritis. Her knees were deteriorating, but Pam continued training and finished the half-marathon.

“My doc told me, ‘You need to cut back.’ Of course I ignored that,” says Pam. “I was hard-headed and I paid for it.” She tore the meniscus in her left knee two years later. She pushed herself in physical therapy and tore it again. As the pain increased over the next few years, Pam became less active and her weight went up. “I should have practiced what I preached,” she admits. Re-tearing her meniscus was her wake-up call. “I consciously became physically active again and lost weight,” Pam says.  

Pam, now the arthritis program manager for the State of Georgia’s Department of Public Health, says, “I never thought when I started working with the Arthritis Foundation encouraging people to exercise that I would need it to get through the day. But here I am. And now I know that job prepared me for what I’m going through today.”

Arthritis Today caught up with the mother of four and grandmother of four to learn what’s on her mind.

How has an active lifestyle helped your arthritis?
I’ve lost 30 pounds, which took the stress off my knees and has been a real confidence booster. I’m no longer on medication, I’m more conscious of what I put in my body, and I listen to my body. Sometimes it tells me, “Pam, you need to sit down, take off those high heels and wear flats today.”