If you’re a kid with juvenile arthritis, you know how great you are. But let us count the ways …
1. You’re nimble
Well, not in the flexible way that most people are. In fact, since many kids with JA experience hot, puffy, stiff joints, you’re probably far from that kind of nimble some of the time. But you’ve learned to be flexible in spirit since you’re dealing with a disease that comes and goes. When it flares up, you’re prepared for extra doctor visits, medications, and limited activities. And when the disease fades into remission, you embrace the change with enthusiasm and grace.
2. You’re watchful
When you have a disease that can come back or flare at any time, you have to learn to understand the signs. JA kids learn to tune into their own bodies so they know when to rest and when to alert their parents or doctors about a symptom.
3. You’re brave
When you’re facing difficult treatments you’re brave: “The hardest part is all the doctors and the needles. We don't like the needles!” says Justin S., who has a twin who also has JA.
When you’re facing a crowd you’re brave: Sam L. traveled to Atlanta to speak at the Arthritis Foundation’s 60th birthday celebration. “I was a little scared,” he says, “there were a lot of people!”
And when kids laugh at you at school you’re brave: “I go to summer camp center for courageous kids,” says Claire S., 13. “It helps remind kids with illnesses like me [that] you’re not alone, so do not give up. It does not matter if people make fun of you or you feel left out. Just don't give up.”
4. You’re a planner and a problem-solver
Maybe you’re going to need help getting your books from the car to your locker. You’ll make a plan. Maybe it’s better to take dance class once a week instead of wearing yourself out with two classes a week. You’re on it. Maybe the sleepover needs to be at your house so your mom can help you with your medicine: no problem. Stiff joints hurt in the morning? You’ll warm them up and go to school an hour late. JA kids learn to “make it work.”
5. You’re like a junior doctor
So many JA kids have been dealing with the disease for many years that they’ve become quite expert in talking about it. They can toss around the names of the drugs that they’ve tried. They know what worked and what didn’t work. As time goes on, every kid will grow up into a young adult who will be more in charge of his or her own treatment, so this is a great start!
Being empowered means understanding what your disease is, its name, how it works, and how to help yourself feel better. The more you know, the more you do for yourself, the better you feel!
6. You hold your head up high
Sometimes JA makes kids grow more slowly. Sometimes the disease makes you walk funny. Most kids know, any time you’re different – whether it’s biggest, smallest, or being the one with the puffy knees – that’s hard. Being different means you have to work harder at being strong and being proud and having hope for a better future. Learning about your disease and how to handle it (both the practical matters and how it makes you feel) can make you grow up a little faster.
“I tell other kids that have [JIA] to always keep your head up,” Caitlin R., 11 says. “Someday they’re going to find a cure. So until then, keep your life going the way you want it to and you can find a way around obstacles in your life.”
7. You have a sense of humor
“My parents call me the family thermometer!” says Julia U., a 12-year-old whose knees can predict the weather. “One advantage of my JRA is when it's starting to get cold, or it will be cold the next day, my knees will start to ache and ‘moan,’” she says. That’s classy – making a joke about a painful situation. “In the end, sometimes my arthritis keeps me from doing what I want,” Julia says, “but I power through the pain and live MY life the way I want to live it!”
8. You know how to have fun
In spite of the pain, the treatments, the flares, and remissions, JA kids are just kids! And kids just want to have fun! Lots of JA kids have told us how much fun it is to do Arthritis Walks and go to camps and conferences where they meet other kids like them. “I love the Jingle Bell Run for arthritis,” says Claire B , 9. “My school even made a team to support me!”
Meeting other JA kids helps you if you’re feeling lonely or mad about having JA – and it’s fun!