Aaliyah – Diagnosed with JIA

Q:  In what city/ province do you live in?

A: I was born and live in Barrie, Ontario.

Q: How old were you when you were diagnosed with Arthritis ? How old are you now? What grade are you in at school?

A: I was diagnosed with JIA and tested positive for the rheumatoid factor at 6 years old. My symptoms started out seeming like growing pains. One day my shoulder would hurt then the next it would be my foot and it kept moving around until one day it seemed to be everywhere. My parents brought me to SickKids in Toronto Ontario where I was diagnosed and treated. I am currently 10 years old and am in Grade 5.

Q: What kind of physical activities or sports do you like to take part in?

A: I have played soccer my entire childhood and when my arthritis began I became so sore that walking and simple things like holding a pencil became very difficult . When my treatment began to get my symptoms under control, I was able to play soccer again which was important to me. It was a long road back and a lot of hard work but the last two years I have been able to play in the REP Division, succeeding as a striker and goalie. I also have been very successful on our school volleyball team and making it to regionals this past winter.

Q: Tell us how having arthritis affects your ability to be physically active or do sports. What motivates you to try to take part in some physical activities or sports on days that you don’t feel like it?

A: My arthritis has affected me doing sports the way I would have liked to in the past.  One example of this is until last summer I was unable to wear soccer cleats because they caused pain in my feet due to the lack of support.  Now I am able to wear them and having the proper cleats on makes me a better player. The best motivation is being told I can’t do something or knowing that the physical activity helps me feel better and stronger than I would if I was not doing it. The athlete in me feels like it is stronger than the arthritis trying to slow me down.

Q: Why do you think it is important for kids/ youth/ teens with Arthritis to be physically active?

A: I think it is really important for people with arthritis to be physically active because keeping your joints moving helps fight the symptoms that can cause us the most discomfort and pain. Staying active with or without arthritis is so important to stay fit and healthy along with a nutritious diet. I also learned about how some foods can cause inflammation in the body and some can help fight it, such as one my favourite foods watermelon.

Q: What advice would you give to other kids / youth / teens with arthritis who might find it hard to take part in physical activities?

A: My advice to those who find it hard or feel it is impossible to get to where they might want to be is “Never Give Up”. I might sound like it is easy for me to be playing rep soccer, but it is not and was not. I can remember not being able to walk from my bedroom down the hallway to the bathroom.  Sometimes I needed my Dad to carry me or help with what were simple things we all take for granted, but I would try again next time. I would walk downstairs even if I knew I needed help coming back upstairs. If you can only take 5 steps today, then try and take 6, and the next day maybe 10 because the more active you can be the better it is for you! As the treatments we receive are helping us we also have to be strong and help ourselves.

You don’t always get what you wish for but you have a great chance of getting what you fight for!