Joyce Roby-Washington turned to her old friend Kim for support when her mother and father passed away, within two years of each other. The relationship grew from friendship to something more, but when Kim proposed, Joyce hesitated. She had been diagnosed with scleroderma three years earlier, and though she was just beginning to feel its effects, she knew what the future might hold. She insisted that Kim come with her to a doctor’s appointment, so that he would understand just how serious her condition was.
But Kim was determined to have a future with Joyce, regardless of what the doctors said. “However bad it gets,” he told her, “we’ll do whatever we have to.”
Their first test came just a year after they were married, when Joyce’s condition worsened. She couldn’t get in and out of the bathtub by herself. She couldn’t open a bottle of water. But Kim rose to the occasion, supporting Joyce with thoughtful gestures. Every morning, he would cut fresh fruit for her breakfast, open several bottles of water for her, and make sure she always had extra socks nearby (“I was cold. Always,” Joyce explains).
“He became that voice of today and right now for me, helping me focus on the present,” Joyce says. With Kim behind her, Joyce began to look for ways to offer support to others with scleroderma. She led a support group, attended conferences, and then helped to plan African American Patient Education Day in Philadelphia. Her goal for the attendees: “To walk out of the room with hope.”
Joyce continues to take an active role in the scleroderma community, inspiring everyone around her – including her husband. “Joyce has truly taught me that living with this disease is a journey…how you choose to navigate it is absolutely a choice. Her way is by encouraging others.” With Kim beside her, Joyce says, “I have such a joyful life . . . in him, I’ve seen beauty come from the ashes.”