Stamping out psoriatic arthritis

NL musician Jerry Stamp is slowly improving from his battle with the auto-immune disease.

Jerry Stamp’s battle against psoriatic arthritis has been a hard fight.

Psoriatic arthritis
Rogue Doubt is Stamp’s most recent album – and possibly his last. It was heavily inspired by his battles with psoriatic arthritis. Photo by Joel Upshall

Ken Meeker
Kicker News 

Thousands of Newfoundlanders head down south during the frigid winters for a few weeks of sunshine and relaxation.

Jerry Stamp went down south to get a new lease on life.

Stamp is a 41-year-old classically trained singer-songwriter from St. John’s.

He had to stop playing guitar just over three years ago due to joint deterioration.

Jerry Stamp went from playing about three or four gigs a week and being on tour for up to six months. to being unable to move – he spent six months bedridden when it was at its worst. Photo by Ray Fennelly

Stamp has psoriatic arthritis – an auto-immune disease.

“It physically hurt to attempt to put pressure on the strings,” said Stamp. “The same thing happened with piano. I could barely hold a mug or glass of water at times. I had to figure out new ways to do simple things.

“If I thought I might have to go to the bathroom and was in bed, I would have to start making my way there about an hour before,” said Stamp.

While it is a part of the arthritis family, Stamp describes his condition  as multiple diseases in one.

“It affects the muscles, joints, tendons and basic mobility, like other forms of arthritis, but the psoriasis side means it is caused by tumour necrosis factor alpha,” said Stamp. “That means your body is creating too much tissue.”

Biologics, an expensive, tailor-made treatment against psoriatic arthritis and other auto-immune diseases, has been a game-changer for Stamp.

“Things began to improve slowly but surely,” said Stamp. “Fast forward about two years and the inflammation in my body was gone. Unfortunately, the damage it had done while it was there is irreparable. While things have gotten better, they will probably get worse with age.”

Not your average snowbird

Stamp first went to Costa Rica with his sister and her husband in early 2015, after they convinced him that the weather would help.

It did.

Stamp returned to Costa Rica for some reprieve from his symptoms.

Since Stamp has been in Costa Rica, he has met plenty of Canadian or American Ex-Pats who come here to winter every year because of their own auto-immune issues. Joel Upshall
Since Stamp has been in Costa Rica, he has met plenty of Canadian or American Ex-Pats who come here to winter every year because of their own auto-immune issues. Photo by Joel Upshall

“I have been here now for almost two months,” said Stamp. “I feel much better. My joints work well, my skin feels pretty good, and the fatigue that usually means I have to be very selective over daily activities is cut down drastically.

“I still have my moments and can’t push it too far. But generally, I would say if my normal capacity at home was about a 60 per cent of where I used to be, Costa Rica is bumping it back up to an 80 per cent.”

Friends in cold places

Ian Foster is a fellow musician and friend of Stamp’s. They have known each other for a decade. Foster was drawn to Stamp’s style of performance and his emotive singing.

“It’s always nice when you can befriend those that you love the music of first,” said Foster.

Foster saw him go through different stages of his battle with psoriatic arthritis.

“For a long time, he was trying to get a diagnosis,” said Foster. “The biggest challenge anywhere, particularly in Newfoundland, is where it can be a challenging health care system. It is a fairly rare illness that he has.”

Foster said that a musician’s identity is enmeshed in their ability to perform.

“Something like this was a life-changer for him,” said Foster. “It’s been difficult for sure.”

On his most recent album, Rogue Doubt, Stamp turned to music as a way to express his feelings and pain in his battle over the past few years.

This led to some powerful tunes and lyrics.

Despite the hand he has been dealt health-wise, Stamp won’t stop fighting.

In the song Marathon Man, Stamp sings, “Can’t believe that I’m still running, but here I am.”

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