Interview: Say ‘”Hi!” to Jay Armstrong!

Interview: Say “Hi!” to Jay Armstrong!

I’m excited to announce I’ve started collaborating with other bloggers to bring you some more diverse content (aka people’s views other than my own!) on Starbrite Warrior.

Let me hear a “Whoop Whoop!”

I’m kicking things off with an interview series featuring other chronic illness bloggers talking about what it’s really like to walk a mile in their shoes.

I haven’t worked out a super cool name for this series as yet – can I blame chronic fatigue brain?! – so if you have any suggestions, please hit me up!

Want to participate in this interview series yourself? To have your voice heard and your blog featured? Drop me an email to bree[at]starbritewarrior.com and we’ll have a chat!

Now, time to kick off the first interview!

Please say “Hi!” to Jay Armstrong of Write on Fight on

Interview series featuring chronic illness bloggers talking about what it’s really like to walk a mile in our shoes. Please say "Hi!" to Jay Armstrong! http://www.starbritewarrior.com/interview-say-hi-jay-armstrong/

A bit about Jay 

Jay Armstrong is a high school English teacher and writer who lives outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with his wife Cindy and their three children Haley, Chase and Dylan.

In 2013, Jay was diagnosed with cerebellar degeneration.

In 2015, Jay was diagnosed with sarcoidosis, an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation that affects organs, lymph nodes, muscles and joints.

After his being diagnosed with sarcoidosis, Jay created Write on Fight on (WoFo for short). On his website, Jay shares personal stories that mix humour with insight. His stories range from his battles with his diseases, music, literature, parenthood and adulting. Write on Fight on also serves a community outreach program that hosts write-a-thons for charities and various programs.

In October 2015 Write on Fight on raised and donated $1,300 for the Special Olympics of New Jersey and this spring Write on Fight on is hosting a write-a-thon to raise scholarship money for college bound high school students.  

Along with writing and reading, Jay enjoys travelling with his wife and kids and having his heart broken by every Philadelphia sports team.  

Welcome Jay!

At the inception of chronic illness there is a lot of fear and confusion. Can you describe the time you felt the most scared?

After my initial brain MRI I was hearing things like ALS, MS, Huntington’s Disease and cancer. And that was really scary.

But the time I was most scared was when a neurologist at a well respected hospital looked at my MRI, shook his head in amazement, then looked at me and said that based on my MRI I should be dead or in a hospital bed.

That really rattled me. And you know what, almost three years later it still rattles me.

How long did it take you to accept your illness?

There are some days that I still struggle with my limitations.  

For 30 years of my life I defined myself by my athletic ability, by the games I played. For 30 years I  took pride in my physical strength and speed. And there are some days I just yearn to go for a run or play in a pick-up basketball game. Or when I see my  friends competing in marathons or endurance races and it’s tough.

Of course, like most men, I have a fragile ego. So I still have this intrinsic, albeit foolish, desire to test the limitations of my body.  It’s funny, my head and heart think they can do certain things, they still think they are 18, but my body is screaming “No! Slow down! Take it easy!” So I think my body has accepted its limitations but the head and the heart…well, we are still working on them!

Anyone living with a chronic illness can attest that there are good days and bad days. How do you embrace the good days?

I play with my kids. They are at really fun ages and they are really into sports. Basketball, baseball, soccer. They just love it when I go out in the backyard and play with them.

On your website you have discussed that getting sick was a good thing. How do people react to that idea?

People are usually surprised. Look, I wish I wasn’t sick. But I am. And it’s my responsibility to make the best of it.  

But I now understand that getting sick was the kick-in-the-ass my life needed.

Before I got sick my life was falling into patterns and I was becoming complacent. A lame adult.

Before I got sick I was earning a Master’s degree in educational administration. I’m not knocking the profession but here’s the thing… I didn’t want to become an administrator. I was just doing it because it was a safe and easy move.

Then I got sick. And nothing was safe and easy and I began to really feel the brevity of life.

Getting sick injected my life with an urgency. An urgency that inspired me to drop out of grad school and start Write on Fight on and do what I always wanted to do – Write.

Can you describe how writing has helped you cope?

I find great strength and comfort in writing.

The deliberate act of sitting down and writing affords me the chance to be strong and unafraid even when I’m weak and afraid.

Also, I’ve learned that a writer must be willing to be vulnerable. And if you are suffering with a chronic disease you are vulnerable. You don’t have a choice. Writing has taught me to embrace vulnerability which I think has better helped me cope with my illness.

What books inspire you?

Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth,” and Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried,” have been books I’ve retreat to time and again. I find comfort in the words and themes of each book.

“The Power of Myth,” offers great perspective in explaining how your personal story fits into the great story of the universe. It’s humbling.  

And “The Things They Carried,” is just a damn good book. It’s brilliant storytelling. I’ve read it at least a dozen times. And somehow that book continues to teach me about the writing and the art of storytelling, as well as what it means to be a conflicted and flawed human trying to make sense of this world.   

On your website you have written a good deal about music.  What musicians or bands inspire you or help you through tough times?

I love music and I’m always listening to it, especially when I write. I love bands like The Lumineers, Mumford and Sons and The Gaslight Anthem. There is a certain mix of grit and hope and urgency in their music that resonates with me.

Also, the patron saint of New Jersey, Bruce Springsteen, has always been a great source of strength, inspiration and perspective. Springsteen’s music is tough, ripe with conflict, yet there is a real sense of hope in his songs. When I’m having a tough day or stretch of days, I will often blast the “Born to Run” album and let Bruce take me away.  

Human connection is a powerful and inspiring thing. Explain how connecting with people from all over the world through your website has helped you cope.

When I started Write on Fight on I had no idea how many people I would connect with.

I started the website as a forum to display my writing, but since its inception the website has become a meeting place for people I know personally and for strangers from all over the world.

The website has taught me that we are all struggling. We are all fighting our own private wars and it’s the spirit of human connection, the communal effort, that helps us to cope and eases of burden of living.

Where can we find you?

Email: [email protected]

Website: Write on Fight on 

Social Media: Twitter and Facebook  

And that’s a wrap! Thanks Jay!

Remember, if you have a cool suggestion as to what this interview series might be called moving forward, please share in the comments below.

Finally, if you would like to participate (be interviewed!) and have your voice heard and your blog featured, please drop me an email at bree[at]starbritewarrior.com and we’ll have a chat!

Shine brite,

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Photo Credit (Featured Image): Pixabay

Photo Credit (Bio Photo): Jay Armstrong

All photos and content the property of Starbrite Warrior and Bree Hogan. Not to be reproduced without permission.

52 Replies to “Interview: Say ‘”Hi!” to Jay Armstrong!”

  1. Fantastic idea for a series, Bree! It’s so good to hear others stories. I love Jay’s attitude and comment that getting sick was a good thing. I feel the same way. Getting sick led me to follow my heart instead of just a paycheck. Can’t wait to read the next in your series! Popping over to Jay’s site now!

    1. Thanks Paula I’m so glad you enjoyed the interview and are already looking forward to the next one (it’s coming soon, within the next couple of weeks!). Getting sick can be one of the suckiest (I’m making up words) things that can happen to us, but it can also help us to see things more clearly and focus on what’s really important. I’m glad you were able to follow your heart. Xx

    1. Thanks Victoria, I think it will be a great addition to Starbrite Warrior. Jay had some great messaging to share as will many others. Keep on coming back for a read! 🙂

  2. I can totally see how you’d still feel like testing your limits sometimes with such an athletic background. It’s great to see how well you’ve been managing your new lifestyle though.

    1. Testing the limits…I know it well…it can be such a double-edged sword sometimes. Too much and whoops, flare time! Talk about walking a tightrope all the time! 🙂

    1. It’s a great line, isn’t it Joanna? I had a good chuckle myself.

      I love interview series too! This one is off to a great start and I can’t wait for you to see what else is coming!

  3. This is really great! I especially love the bit on how writing has helped him cope – I can completely relate and completely understand where he is coming from with the vulnerability side of things. I’m definitely interested in this series of chronic illness bloggers – it seems like such a great idea!

    1. Thanks Amy, I’m glad you liked the interview and want to come back for more!

      I agree re: the writing helping to cope, it’s certainly one of the reasons I put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).

  4. This is a really awesome series! I love that you are sharing and showcasing others. Wonderful! You pose some really engaging questions, and I feel as if I really connect with Jay through your questions, especially the one about how Jay’s blog has helped him cope through illness. I can’t wait to follow this series and meet more amazing people. Yay!

    1. Thank you Aarika! Jay is very easy to connect with through his words and you just want to keep on reading.

      I’m excited for the rest of the series, too!

    1. I’m sure Jay would love it if you shared his website with PIP, Jennifer! I’ve certainly loved it when you have shared things of mine to PIP in the past (thanks again!).

  5. Wow, Jay is a really strong individual. I love that he is embracing his illness and he’s also not trying to ignore it. Great feature, it’s nice to meet ya Jay!

  6. I’m always floored when I hear you talk about Chronic illness and Jay had the same effect on me. There is a part in the interview where he is talking about how during his first brain scan he was hearing all these possible diagnoses and it made me livid, doctors should confort and heal but a lot state the worst and hope for the best instead of just letting the diagnoses speak for themselves. We have enough “Worst case” on Google lol

    1. How doctors interact with you really does make all the difference, Dia. I’ve had a real mixed bag over the years. The good ones – you wanna hang onto them! Bedside manner is everything.

  7. This is a great series. It’s important to share our stories and help others understand what it’s really like to live with a chronic illness. I love that Jay has found writing as a way to cope, and I love the part where he said, “Look, I wish I wasn’t sick. But I am. And it’s my responsibility to make the best of it.”

    1. Thank you Nicole! I think it’s very important to share our stories – I really believe it helps us to heal on a personal level and it has the flow-on effect of helping others going through something similar. It helps us to feel more connected and less alone. It’s a great quote by Jay, I completely agree!

    2. Nicole, I totally agree! We need to share our stories. Other people’s stories afford us the opportunity to make sense of our own lives.

    1. I’m sure people will get a lot out of Jay’s interview, and indeed, the other interviews moving forwards. Thanks Candy!

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