My journey with arthritis started at only 2 years of age. Random rashes turned into inexplicable sore joints and fatigue. Years and many medical appointments later, I was (finally) diagnosed at the age of 11 with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis as well as Enthesitis-related Arthritis by a specialist from Hospital for Sick Children. The bottom line: I had an “old person’s disease” … as a kid! I was soon realizing that this was only the beginning of a long and painful yet positive journey.
Despite the many challenges I faced, I am proud to say that I persevered and pushed through the pain every day, with the help of treatments, physiotherapy, in-school accommodations, and support groups. It was not easy, but I felt as though I had no other choice; I was determined to not let this disease stop me from doing what a normal child and young adult would do. I remained active in various sports and activities. I also stayed very focussed in school. My biggest accomplishment to date is receiving my bachelor’s degree in Arts last June. I graduated with a major in Études françaises (French Studies) and a double minor in Mathematics and Religious Studies from Laurentian University in Sudbury. I also graduated with distinctions Magna Cum Laude for my GPA of 9.65 allowing me to receive bursaries for school. I am currently studying to become a teacher. I hope that, as a schoolteacher, if ever a child with a physical handicap crosses my path, I will make a difference in their life by understanding the weight of what they are living through and how to help them.
Although I have always refused to let my diagnosis stand in my way, I admit that I had many hurdles to overcome in my young adult life. The biggest one of all: convincing everyone that my diagnosis was real and that my pain was real. I suffered in silence from this invisible illness. I spent a big portion of my life trying to prove to my teachers, to my coaches and even to my friends that children could get arthritis too and that I needed accommodations to have the same opportunities as my peers.
This is why I believe that arthritis awareness is so important. I know that my journey with arthritis is what shaped me into the strong and determined person that I am today. However, no child or young adult affected by an arthritic condition should live without the support of the people around them. Greater awareness of arthritis in young adults is the key to conquer misconceptions and prejudice.
This story is a part of an ongoing feature on Young Adults, as part of our Arthritis Awareness Month. Read more stories here.