Q&A // Melanie Cushman

On Her Journey With Arthritis + Why She Loves Her Backpack

For our latest installment of Parker Clay Q&A, we caught up with one of our loyal customers, Melanie Cushman. Melanie has an amazing story to share about her journey with arthritis, and how her Parker Clay backpack has made a in difference in her life. 

Meet Melanie: I’m a Santa Barbara girl through and through! Born and raised in this beautiful town, I moved away for college but couldn’t stay away for long. After I graduated college I moved to the Philippines to work for an international relief agency. Now I’m back in sunny Santa Barbara, and am only two weeks away from finishing up my Masters degree in Social Work. In my free time I love to go on walks with friends so I can enjoy conversation and nature all at the same time! 

On her journey with arthritis: When I was 13 I was diagnosed with polyarticular juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (now known as polyarticular JIA). This diagnosis lead to a new normal for me, balancing medications, doctors appointments, and learning a whole new vocabulary of medical terms. I had to give up a lot of things I once loved to promote my overall health, including high school at one point when I was spending too many days in the hospital to attend classes. Over the past decade living with this disease I’ve found ways to balance health and live life to its fullest, but don't get me wrong some days are still very challenging. I have found a community that loves, encourages and pushes me and I am so thankful. I am a firm believer that community changes things, and I am so thankful for the community that I am a part of in Santa Barbara!

On why she loves her Miramar Leather Backpack: A few years ago I was having a lot of trouble with my shoulder, and ended up having surgery. I realized a one shoulder bag was too hard for me to carry, even when it only had my keys and wallet in there. My Parker Clay backpack allows me to use two straps to evenly distribute the weight of my bag and it’s the cutest bag I have ever owned. I bring it to physical therapy, dinner out with friends, work and more! I am so thankful for something that meets my physical needs and also doesn’t draw the attention of a roller suitcase!

On where she draws her inspiration: I draw joy and inspiration from people and Jesus. I absolutely love to hear people’s stories and what moments have shaped them. My favorite question to ask around the dinner table is “What did you learn this week?" This question can be taken so many directions and you can truly see into someone's heart. By finding out what people enjoy learning, both good and bad, you can better learn how to support them. Community has changed my life and I strive to be a part of others’ communities too!

On her daily essentials: I never leave home without my keys, wallet, and phone. I love that I can even take my computer in my backpack to work with me if I need to! Usually I have some medications in there also, but I try to keep my bag as light as possible so that my joints don’t hurt.

On the season ahead: I am so excited to enter into this new season of life with my Masters degree! I’m sure my backpack will be with me on many of these new adventures. 

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Melanie! We are so inspired by your story. 


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