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Young and Inflamed: My Experience With Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis

I’m pretty lucky when I think about my situation. I’ve never had a flare-up so bad I’ve had to go to the hospital. I can go away to school without much fear or worry. I can (for the most part) be a “normal” teenager. But juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is still a huge part of me.

At 15 years old, I started limping. I’ve since learned, at 18, that limping may be a first sign of JIA. If only we’d known that back then, maybe I could’ve avoided three confusing diagnoses. Maybe I would’ve been able to control the pain. Maybe I would’ve been able to increase my range of motion in my arms, leg and jaw. Maybe seems to be an overused word in my vocabulary since my diagnosis.

Medications have worked their way into my life as well. Celebrex, methotrexate, biologics and folic acid, words that once seemed like gibberish, are common in a sentence for me nowadays. But it’s not the medications I really pay attention to, more the side effects. In my experience, there’s often a sentence of the information sheets of the medications that’s similar to this: Remember, if your doctor has prescribed you this, the benefits most likely outweigh the side effects. That sentence is the reason I am not fully living like a “normal” teenager. Other teenagers might worry about how they did on a test, or if they’ll make a team. And though I have those worries, I also have to worry about if my hair will thin out, if I’ll be too drained or nauseous to do something, as well as other things.

It took time, but I have finally come to accept this disease — to accept that yes, I have JIA as a disease, and no, it will never fully go away, but I can choose to survive with it or let it take over. I, along with 24,000 other children and teenagers in Canada, will, and have to, take control of our bodies back. This is what we have to work with, and this is what we will work with.

Naomi on a merry-go-round

Editor’s note: This post is based on an individual’s experience and should not be taken as medical advice. Please reach out to a medical professional with any questions or concerns you might have. 

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