Effie Koliopoulos, Creator of 'Rising Above rheumatoid arthritis' Blog. Interview conducted by Tony Kariotis of GreekPosts.com
Tell me a little about yourself!
Hi! My name is Effie, my nickname which is short for, Efstathia. I am second-generation and my parents both immigrated from Greece to the USA when they were in their teens. I was born and raised in Chicago, IL and graduated from DePaul University with a B.A. degree in Communications, Journalism, Public Relations and Screenwriting in 2009. I am currently a patient leader advocate where I serve on an advisory board for an organization called, WEGO Health. I am also a free-lance writer where I write about rheumatoid arthritis related topics for a couple online websites. In addition to that, I am an ambassador for a few charities that focus on chronic illness and building connection throughout various communities around the nation. In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with family, friends, exercising, going on nature walks, writing, reading, baking, cooking, traveling and just living life!
What does being Greek mean to you?
Being Greek means creating change. While our culture, food, music, and countries majestic architectural is one-of-a-kind, I like to dig a little deeper beyond the surface level. Our ancestors, like many other countries in their own right, were at the forefront of positive profound change. I plan on being that change for those in the arthritis, chronic illness and disability communities. However, I would also like to see more openness surrounding the Greek community at large when it comes to sharing health issues, they or a family member are facing. I noticed that it can be looked down upon when someone in our culture starts sharing their health issues openly, but I have seen this in other rich cultures that are also traditional- as I have friends who are not Greek tell me the same things. A lot of times these conditions can be hereditary, so if more people come forward in regards to chronic ailments they face, it can really provide scientists, researchers and doctors with more information to help others. Thus, starting to shift towards the change that is desperately needed.
What makes you proud calling yourself Greek?
I would say the many Greek leaders that have risen to the surface whom still create a positive impact today. Hippocrates, also known by many of us as the “Father of Modern Medicine,” is still talked about in medical schools, biology classes and many of the health tips he provided back in that era, are actually legit and can be applied to ailments that are still plaguing us today- which is quite absurd.
What inspired you to start your blog?
Being diagnosed with juvenile arthritis 15 years ago and experiencing many ups and downs, challenges and triumphs, is what motivated me to create my blog in 2017. Ultimately, inspiration hit when I was recovering from a total knee replacement the year prior. My main goals were to share my story but also give back to my community with the wisdom and knowledge I had acquired. While I worked for the Arthritis Foundation in college ten years ago and was involved with advocacy from then, I didn’t share my health struggles openly besides my close family and friends. I found a lot of support came from my inner circle but also online where I connected with bloggers, writers, activists and advocates from around the nation and world. Their bravery and courage really inspired me to share my story on a wider scale.
Tell us a little bit about the blog!!
Rising Above rheumatoid arthritis, is an award-winning health and wellness, medical, lifestyle and advocacy blog, solely focused on those living with rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile arthritis, other forms of autoimmune arthritis, chronic illness and disability. It was created to share my own journey, advice, reviews, featured articles, guest posts, raise awareness through various projects and provide a space for community and connection among the arthritis community at large.
How often do you get to visit Greece? Where do you stay!?
Not as often as I would like! I have only been twice. When I tell people this they get shocked and act like I am less Greek than they are for not going often, which is far from the truth. Not everyone is as fortunate or lucky to travel every summer, it is what it is. Honestly, it’s very difficult and expensive to vacation in Greece if you do not have a place of your own to stay. On the other hand, traveling with a chronic illness isn’t easy either but is doable with extra planning. For example, getting travel insurance and making sure you have everything with you like doctor’s notes, supplements and medications can all be a drag to bring with, but is necessary in order to stay healthy during your vacation. While I do visit a ton of family while I am there and have been welcomed, fed and housed into their homes with open arms, it can be hard to have an extended stay for weeks at a time for various reasons. When I visit I go to Athens, Tripoli and Pyrgos areas- mainly where I have family. I’ve visited islands nearby such as, Zakynthos and plan on visiting more in the near future, possibly this summer or next, using the first flight straight to Athens! Who likes connecting flights anyways?
Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?
I am currently writing my first children’s book for kids with juvenile arthritis, their families and friends. Medical professionals and educators can benefit from this book as it really touches on the mental and emotional aspect of the disease, that can often be neglected. The overall themes, lessons, morals and values can be applied to all, healthy or not. It is something both parents and children alike will be able to enjoy. This will be a first in a series of picture story books/early readers of the character. I also have plans for adult books in the future. Those who are interested in following along for more updates on the book can do so here at, https://iameffiek.com/.
For more on other advocacy and awareness projects I am working on check out my blog, https://risingabovera.com/.
Thank you, Effie! We look forward to following your journey!!
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