Bethany – Diagnosed with JIA


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

A:  I live in Ottawa, Ontario.


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

A:   I was diagnosed in March 2012 in grade 9, when I was 15 years old.  I am now in grade 10.


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

A:    I love all kinds of physical activity, but I am most passionate about speed skating.  I have been skating since I was six years old.  Over the years I have become more and more serious about the  sport.  In my best day, I was competing with the top speed skaters in the country,  and I hope to one day get back to that again.  I have made so many good friends in skating,  and the atmosphere at skating is really nice:  although we are competing,  we are all good friends.


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 activity or sports on days that you don’t feel like it?  What motivates you to be active on days that you don’t feel like it?

A:  My arthritis affects me a lot when I am skating.  During my worst days, I hurt all over,  and I could barely  complete my warm up for the race.  What kept me going,  I think, was my passion and my stubbornness.  I continued skating even when I was unable to complete a race without crying, until finally,  my rheumatologist told me that I had to stop.  I took a break from competing,  but continued on with practices.  My knees posed the biggest problem.  Because speed skating is so technical, there is a ton of pressure on your knees.  However, it is no longer arthritis that is causing my knee pain,  it is patella femoral syndrome,  which means that my kneecaps do not move the way they are supposed to.  I wear knee braces now, which is helping a lot.  But since I had to miss so many training sessions,  I am now out of shape,  but that’s something that’s easy to work on.


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

A:   I think that is is so important for kids with arthritis to keep active,  because it keeps your joints moving.  From my experience, lying around or sitting for long periods of time feels good while you’re doing it.  But once you have to get up and walk around,  it is all that much harder.  I found that getting up and moving around makes everything feel better in the long run, not just physically but mentally as well.  Maybe it’s the fact that you are moving your joints around and stretching them out,  but I think it has to do with the fact that exercise makes people feel better.  When you exercise,  your body releases endorphins that help alleviate your mood to make you feel better.


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

A:  I would tell them to set small goals.  I really do know how awful it can feel when you are unable to participate in the things that you love.   It sometimes feels like nothing will ever be the same again.  For a long time after my diagnosis,  I continued to try to compete in skating at the same level as I had before.  I really shouldn’t have been doing it though.  It was too much,  and in the end,  I didn’t gain anything from it.   So I took a break from competing and set some attainable goals for myself.

Another thing I would suggest to kids and teens with arthritis:  be patient, and don’t take it too fast.  You don’t want to jump back into anything before you’re ready.  I can honestly say that it isn’t worth it.  When you start doing hard exercise before you’re ready,  it will only set you back.  It’s frustrating to have to wait,  I understand,  but it’s even more frustrating when you try to go back and end up worse off than when you started.

The bottom line is,  if you don’t enjoy the exercise,  you won’t do it,  and if you can’t do it you won’t enjoy it.   So, just take a break,  set some new goals and make sure you’re having a good time.