Success Story: “The leaders empower you.”

"I don’t know if I can do this.”  Sheila Murphy, 54, of Poplar Bluff, Missouri, wanted to regain her independence and also to take care of herself after the loss of her sister whom she had cared for over 12 years.

Img001(Image: Sheila Murphy, when she first came to the Independent Living Center of Southeast Missouri in July 2012)

When Murphy first heard about self-management programs being offered through the Independent Living Center of Southeast Missouri, her life slowly began to change. 

Murphy started slowly participating in the Arthritis Foundation Aquatics program, just a few times each week.  Murphy has now built up to participating about three times each week.  She also enrolled as a participant of the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program (CDSMP).  One of Murphy’s greatest motivators to continue taking control of her health was her family: “I felt like I owed it to them.”

While Murphy has assuredly had great success in the programs she has participated in, a success that has been observed by staff at the Independent Living Center and the Southeast Missouri Regional Arthritis Center, she feels like the greatest success is the instructors of these classes.  The instructors are “all winners in my book because they keep going.  My goal is to become like them.”  The instructors in Murphy’s CDSMP course taught her to brainstorm and to problem solve.  The ability of these individuals to relate to Murphy and her health helped her realize the importance of the class and her health.  She stated that her health is getting back on track thanks to “those women and men [in her classes]; their stories have been the success”.

The Arthritis Foundation Aquatics Program is a group format course offered by trained leaders.  The program is a warm water exercise program shown to reduce pain and improve overall health.  Murphy stated of the program that “a heavy person can feel like a ballerina in the water; it gives you hope.”  The CDSMP is a group format course that is offered by trained leaders in six-week increments, meeting once per week for 2.5 hours.  Participants are either persons with a long-term health condition (like asthma, arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease) or a caregiver for an individual with chronic health problems. This program which was researched and designed by Stanford University and is now an evidence-based intervention, discusses techniques to deal with health problems associated with chronic conditions; appropriate exercise; appropriate use of medications; communicating effectively with family, friends and health professionals; nutrition and setting goals.

Sheil Murphy      5-2013(Image: Sheila Murphy, in May 2013 with her completion certificate for becoming a Certified Leader for the CDSMP classes.)

The impact of Murphy’s leaders on her commitment to take back her life is apparent.  Murphy has recently gone through the process to become a certified leader for CDSMP classes.  And, now that Murphy has begun to feel that she has positively impacted her health, including improving her mobility, lessening her pain, and increasing her confidence, she has a goal for the next year.  Murphy will be working on taking steps to get back to working at least part-time. 

To find out more information or to register for Arthritis Foundation Aquatics programs, please visit  If you are interested in participating in a Chronic Disease Self-Management Program in southeast Missouri, contact the Southeast Missouri Regional Arthritis Center, Heidi Dunn, toll-free at 1-888-216-3293.  To find a CDSMP class elsewhere in the state, call toll-free at 1-888-702-8818 or visit .  Murphy’s advice to individuals considering participating is to “be brave. Be courageous.  Put yourself out there.  It’s scary and those things control you, but they don’t define who you are.  You define who you are.”

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