I was diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis when I was 18 months old. I had gone from being an active toddler to one who had a bad limp and was having trouble walking. My pediatrician thought I had JIA but referred me to a specialist to be sure. I live in Nevada, and it’s not a good place to be if you have JIA because there are hardly any doctors who specialize in this illness. When I was first diagnosed there were no doctors here who could help me. A doctor came from California to a cancer clinic to see me and a few other kids, and my parents also took me to UCLA Medical Center. Once I was diagnosed the decision was made to put me on Enbrel. My parents were told that if they did nothing, I would likely grow up with physical disabilities and there was a good chance I would eventually be unable to walk. So I went on Enbrel and got shots at home every week. I didn’t mind the shots.
When I was 7 I decided that I wanted to play softball. There was talk that it was a bad idea in case I got hurt, but my parents thought not letting me try would be even worse. So I joined a team. I wasn’t the best player on the team but I worked harder than anyone because I wanted to be the best. I stayed very active with softball and later on I made my elementary school.
volleyball team. I was in pain pretty much all the time, but it hurt most when I woke up in the morning and my joints were stiff. The JIA was in my ankles, wrists, and fingers. It was my ankles that hurt the most. Sometimes after softball practice, I cried in the car. No way would I let my coaches and teammates see me cry.
When I got a little older it seemed like the JIA wasn’t as bad. Eventually, I got to stop getting Enbrel shots and went into what is called a clinical remission. Then I had to have hand surgery to fix a very bad trigger finger that was caused by all the inflammation in my finger from the JIA. That hurt! But once I recovered it was like I was given a second chance– playing softball without feeling terrible pain for the first time in three years. It was a miracle.
Today I play travel softball and I’m a pitcher. I also play league volleyball. I hike and I am very physically active. I work out in some way 7 days a week. I think being active plus having the Enbrel is what helped me.
I am lucky. A lot of kids with JIA will never get to play softball because their arthritis is very bad or maybe their medications don’t help.
It is for them and myself that I have big dreams. I want to play softball in the Women’s College World Series (and maybe even the Olympics!) so I can give JIA a face and a voice.
If I can do it, maybe it will inspire other kids (and parents) not to give up. That’s my message: push through the pain, work twice as hard as everyone else, and don’t ever give up on your dreams.