“The Juvenile Arthritis (JA) Conference, sponsored by the Arthritis Foundation, was created to give people the opportunity to discover that Juvenile Arthritis doesn’t define us, it doesn’t control us and it doesn’t stop us,” said Colleen Ryan, 2016 JA Conference Chair.
“Together we build each other up, hold one another’s hands, are a shoulder to cry on and a much needed sounding board. Together we are strong. Together we are tough. Together, we are champions!”
Teens at the 2016 Conference held this summer were asked how they would describe the way they are stronger than their disease.
Alexis Fox was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) when she was just 13 months old. With an avid love of gymnastics, music and art, she pursued competitive gymnastics up until she was 12 and her rheumatologist recommended she quit altogether.
Cortisone shots were not enough, and the impact of the sport she loved was causing pain and flares. Alexis battled bouts of depression, but found her way back through art and music.
“Me being stronger than my arthritis wasn’t a choice – I knew it’s what I had to be, “ said Alexis.
For Grace Burns, her JIA diagnosis also came early, when she was 20 months old. “When I was first diagnosed my parents were told I wouldn’t be able to play sports, but at 5 I started player soccer and haven’t stopped! I play lacrosse as well.”
The moment Grace says she realized she was stronger then arthritis was when she was able to play -and score – in an important tournament with her soccer team.
“I know no matter what happens in life I will always fight and be strong,” says Grace..”My parents tell me how strong I am but at that moment I knew for myself – I am stronger than this disease!”
Grace says, ”I want children to know they don’t have to give up on their dreams. I didn’t any examples of kids with JIA around me growing up.
“If one child is listening, can hear my story and say, “Guess what, I’m not giving up, I’m going to do my own thing and I’m a fighter!” then I can be happy that we all don’t suffer with JIA for nothing. We can all make a difference.”
Source: Arthritis Foundation