LeAnn Soars Despite Her Autoimmune Disease

LeAnn Soars Despite Her Autoimmune Disease

Living with an autoimmune disease is difficult, but sometimes even just a brief thirty second snapshot could help change your life for the better. On her 62nd birthday, LeAnn took a leap of faith as she signed up for her first-ever trapeze class. As she jumped off the platform eighty feet above the ground, held only by a safety harness around her waist, she grabbed the trapeze bar and soared through the air. In that fleeting moment, she felt a profound freedom from the autoimmune disease that has plagued her for nearly two and a half decades.

“It was thrilling to fly through the air and feel, even if just for a brief moment, the freedom that I used to take for granted,” revealed LeAnn.


LeAnn was formally diagnosed with Mixed Connective Tissue Disease (an umbrella term encompassing a host of autoimmune diseases) and osteoarthritis in 1991 and since her diagnosis she has suffered greatly. She has eight distal deformities in her fingers and several degenerative spinal discs that have required surgery and injections. She related that often she feels devastated about everything she can’t do anymore, like running, tennis, volleyball, and gymnastics, to name a few. But in her darkest moment she tries to remind herself to instead focuses on all that she can do. Despite all of the physical hardships LeAnn faces, she refuses to let her autoimmune disease get in her way and she challenges herself to walk, bike, hike or swim as often as she can in her hometown in Minnesota.

“I made a conscious choice to live life fully and do as much physical activity as I can for the pure joy of it, until my body will no longer allow me to,” she said.

Taking a Leap of Faith Despite Her Autoimmune Disease

For LeAnn, living life fully means stepping out of her comfort zone. One way she did this was by going to a trapeze center and deciding, on her birthday, that she was going to take the challenge. LeAnn and her two daughters quite literally took a leap of faith as braved the trapeze challenge. When she showed up for the 1.5 hour class, she did not fully know what she was getting into, or if her body would even be able to handle the strenuous nature of the sport, but she forged ahead.

LeAnn, however, handled the challenge and with “flying” colors. She offered a vivid description of the thrilling process. First, she climbed a narrow ladder to a platform eighty feet in the air, where she was then hooked up to a safety harness. Then, while holding onto a cables on the platform, she leaned out and extended her arm to grab the bar with one hand. She awaited her cue – “Ready, HUP!” and at that moment, simultaneously grabbed the bar with her other hand while jumping off the platform.

“It was exciting, scary and gave me a sense of wonderful freedom and accomplishment,” she explained.

Free to Fly High

LeAnn is no stranger to “flying.” In high school and college, she was a gymnast and especially loved the uneven bars. However, that was before her autoimmune disease diagnosis and she wasn’t sure if she could “fly” like she used to. LeAnn was pleasantly surprised to find that she was able to do everything asked of her, including a knee-hang (flying through the air hanging upside down only hooked onto the bar by her knees), a release (letting go of the bar) and a catch (when an instructor catches a student from another trapeze). As she flew through the air, her chronic pain from her autoimmune disease was left in the shadows as she felt something far more prominent in its place – freedom. See a video of her trapeze experience below.

“Beyond the physical freedom the trapeze gives me, I feel an incredible spiritual freedom and that feeling is worth any pain I encounter the next day,” she said.

Even though it hurts, the mental and emotional gains far outweigh the pain LeAnn feels from her beloved trapeze, which she plans to continue until she is physically unable. For anyone that cannot exercise due to their health, LeAnn offers advice to help them find their own personal freedom, just as she, herself, has done.

“Don’t wait. Now is the time to challenge yourself in any way that sounds fun and exciting for you. There is so much more you can do than you realize. Find friends or family to join you on an adventure and celebrate after. Most importantly, always remember to encourage others along the way.”

Note: Recommendations made by LeAnn are based on her personal experience. Please consult your doctor for an opinion on whether you personally can and/or should perform any activities such as described.

Did LeAnn’s story inspire you? Tell us about in the comments below!

Article Author
Arthritis National Research Foundation

The Arthritis National Research Foundation's mission is to provide initial research funding to brilliant, investigative scientists with new ideas to cure arthritis and related autoimmune diseases. Writing articles about the patients affected and the science being done to find a cure shows why we need to come together to #CureArthritis!

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