Diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis at age 15
How has your condition impacted you? I was 15 to 16 years old when I found out I have Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. At first, I didn't know what to think, how to feel, or what to do. I didn't feel "sick" so it was confusing to me. I went to Riley Children's Hospital in Indianapolis for the pain, stiffness, and swelling I had in my left knee and in my right pointer finger. Slowly, through the years, it started to affect me in different joints. There were so many days I would just sit and cry. There was nothing I could do but cry. I felt very alone. I lost two jobs because of my disease, I lost friends, and I lost my teen years. Sometimes, I still wonder how I got out of bed each day. However, now that I am responding well to medication, I spend most of my time symptom free. It's been a long road to get me here, but I know it's not over. I just thank my family for being here and for a husband who doesn't get it all, but tries so very hard to. I do believe this has made me a stronger person and more compassionate towards others.
What would you like for other people to know about RA? Just because you don't look sick or act sick every day doesn't mean that you are healthy. I want everyone to know that. Be compassionate towards others because you never know what they are battling.
What would you want to tell someone who is newly diagnosed with RA? I want them to know that it's you and RA. It's only the two of you. It's best to just accept it. It's hard not to think, "Why me?", but it's best to remember that things could always be much worse. You are the only one who can make yourself feel better. You'll be just fine . . . even on days when it doesn't feel like it. There will be days that you struggle. You will feel helpless at times. You will experience a period of grief. However, there is a world of people out there who understand the pain. It's best to have a great doctor with great nurses. Also, family and friends will pull you through anything. It's best to be patient, say your prayers, and realize that you are not alone!
Extra thanks to Michelle for meeting me on a very cold day in December for this photo shoot and then patiently waiting for the July/August issue of Arthritis Today magazine to come out before seeing her portrait on this site. Thank you Michelle!