Clara – Diagnosed with JIA


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

A: I was born and raised in Victoria, BC.          


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 arthritis when I was 11 years old, after living with a “sprained ankle” for almost a year. Since then it has spread to other joints in my body, including my knees, elbow and jaw and even my eyes. I am now 16 and in grade 11.          


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

A: My favorite sport is cycling. I have been riding bikes for as long as I can remember, but I started competitive road cycling when I was 13. It was recommended to me by my physio since there is minimal impact put on the joints, and it was something I loved to do so I took to it right away. Since then I have competed all over the country, and even done a few races down in the US. When I was 14, I started track cycling as well and last year I won 2 provincial titles on the track, and became the 2012 U-17 Canadian National Champion in the Omnium. I also love to swim and play soccer for fun.


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?

A: Some days I wake up with sore and swollen joints, or a bad headache from the pain in my jaw, and I feel like staying in bed for the day. But from years of experience, I know that staying still only makes it worse. When I get up and start moving, 9 times out of 10 the pain and stiffness lessen and I feel a lot better. Sometimes my joints get agitated when I’m riding and it’s hard to keep going, but I have come to know my limits and I try to encourage my self to push through until I have reached my max. My motivation comes from looking back at how far I have come, and looking ahead at how far I can go. Seeing that I went from hardly doing any physical activity at all because of my arthritis, to winning a National Championship is what motivates me to keep going and strive towards what I can do in the future, like represent Canada at a World Championship or the Olympic Games.


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

A: Staying active has to be one of the most important aspects of a treatment plan for kids with arthritis. When you’re sitting or laying down, the fluid in your joints accumulates and settles, making them stiff and sore. When you keep your joints moving, the fluid doesn’t have a chance to accumulate or settle, reducing the stiffness in the joint and also some pain. Also, a physically fit body is generally a healthy body over all. It makes you feel better both physically and mentally, and it is a proven fact that physical activity can help boost your mood!


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: Find your passion. If you truly love it, it will go from being a chore to something you couldn’t imagine living with out. Once you’ve found it, never let anyone or anything stop you from pursuing it. Get to know your body and its limits and learn to work within them. Keep setting small goals. For me, whether I’m in the middle of a big race or just out for a training ride, I continuously set small goals. If I’m starting to hurt, I say to my self ‘just make it to the bottom of the next climb’. When I get there, I think ‘come on, you can make it to the top!’ When I do, it’s ‘you’ve gotten this far, so why stop now?’ It may seem like a silly thing to do, but it has worked wonders for me. The key is to start off slow, and take things as they come at you step by step. Remember that your mind is a powerful thing, and with a little determination, perseverance and will, you can do anything. Also, hard work is always more enjoyable with good company, so find a friend who shares similar interests, and go have fun!