This Sunday I am taking part in something called The Jingle Bell Walk & Run For Arthritis and this year the proceeds go to the Childhood Arthritis Program here in Canada. This cause is near and dear to me because I have personally felt the affects of arthritis and I watch one of my close friends battle psoriatic arthritis every day. It is disabling, painful, mentally and physically exhausting, and often times a very lonely thing to go through in life. And we are adults. I can’t even imagine what it is like for small kids to be faced with surgeries, aches and pains, inability to run with their classmates or write notes all day in class, scary doctors appointments and harsh medications. I can only imagine the fear and sadness that these children, and their parents, feel on a daily basis.
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis affects kids of any age or ethnicity. It is an auto-immune disorder, meaning that the immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues, causing the symptoms of arthritis. Juvenile arthritis causes joint and tissue damage, high fevers, skin rashes, swelling in lymph nodes, sometimes eye inflammation, growth problems and an uneven growth of bones and joints.
Upon researching juvenile arthritis, I found the most upsetting thing for children to experience is not the disease itself, but it is the lack of awareness and the negative social connotations that come with having arthritis. I watched a video where families and kids dealing with juvenile arthritis were interviewed. The kids talked about how hard it is to go to school and to have friends because they are considered “the weird girl or boy with arthritis.” One girl mentioned how students in her school make fun of her by miming an old woman using a walker. She gets called “grandma.” She is no more than nine years old. One little girl talked about how she was being evaluated on her handwriting in class and her teacher failed her and gave her a “D” for effort while she had such bad arthritis in her hands that she could barely hold onto the pencil.
I don’t think kids should have to go through that. It is horrible enough having to deal with every other aspect of life with arthritis, let alone being bullied and not understood by classmates or teachers.
Arthritis is not a “grandma” disease. Arthritis has over twenty different types. Yes, children can get arthritis. So they need all of the support they can get.
There even remains a lack of awareness about Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis within the medical community. It takes some children years to receive a proper diagnosis and effective treatment. They often get dismissed as having “growing pains” and families need second, third and even fourth opinions before a diagnosis is made. This can be very harmful for children with juvenile arthritis because the damage done to their tissues and joints in the years leading up to treatment can be lasting.
The Childhood Arthritis Program, as part of the Arthritis Society of Canada, provides support for families affected by the disease. It helps families navigate the scary medical stuff, the psychological impacts of the disease, understanding treatment and management, and it helps raise awareness that this disease is nothing to mock. It is real, it is debilitating, and it needs funding and support just like any other disease.
So that’s why I am doing the Jingle Bell Walk & Run for Childhood Arthritis. I want to do my little part to help ensure that someday children won’t have to be bullied because of their disease just because there is a lack of education surrounding it. More importantly, I want to do my little part to help ensure that foundations like The Arthritis Society of Canada has the funding necessary to do everything they can to find a cure for every type of arthritis. I’m also doing this with my friend Jerry in mind. I know his form of arthritis is not the type of arthritis we are funding with this walk, but any step forward in arthritis research and awareness of any kind is a step forward that will help people like Jerry manage their disease. I want to see the day where my friend can be told there is a cure for his illness, and I’m sure that parents of children with arthritis dream of that cure every night.
If you have the means to donate to my team of friends please click on the link here and donate. It will be greatly appreciated. If you do not have the money to donate then I thank you for taking the time to learn a little more about how arthritis affects children and I ask you to help raise awareness and educate others. Maybe if parents and teachers can open their minds and learn a little more about juvenile arthritis they can pass that knowledge on to their children, providing kids with arthritis a safer, more compassionate learning environment. And maybe if more money is put into researching this disease it will become much easier for doctors to diagnose and treat, giving those children a brighter future.