As Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month comes to a close, we got in touch with Melissa Steinman, a rheumatoid arthritis sufferer that has been dealing with arthritis for the past thirty years:
Melissa never asked for an arthritis diagnosis, but unfortunately, when she was just 20 months old, that’s exactly what she received; despite being just an infant, she was formally diagnosed with Polyarticular Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Ever since then, she has been on a variety of medications but most have yielded poor results and the ones that have worked would stop working after only a year or two. Melissa also has endured an ankle fusion, two separate knee surgeries, and has another ankle surgery needed in the future. However, she insists that staying physically active has done wonders for her condition.
“After my first knee surgery 5 years ago I decided that I should take the days I feel good and do something good for my body,” Melissa explained. “I started exercising and watching what I ate and lost a good amount of weight. I realized how good I started to feel and realized that I had power over this disease. I was going to choose to take control of it after it had controlled me for so many years.”
Self-described as determined and stubborn, Melissa never submitted to diagnoses that she would be wheelchair-bound by age twelve. Instead she turned her lifestyle around and even participated in her first 5K this past May, a race she is proud to say she completed, even though there was a time when she thought she never would be able to finish a three mile run.
“Nothing feels better than doing what they say can’t be done,” Melissa said about her race. “I’ve been fighting [for a long time] and am proud to say that my determination and stubborn attitude have gotten me where I am today.”
Though she is a fighter, Melissa’s rheumatoid arthritis has affected her life severely. It’s affected her energy levels, brought her other serious health issues, damaged her joints and wreaked havoc on her ankles. She has bad days when all she wants to do is throw in the towel, but she makes a conscious decision to deal with her troubles, believing that life is what she can make of it. In short, she always tries to see the glass half full; a positive thinking strategy that has increased her strength and view of the world.
“If I didn’t have to deal with this every day for the last thirty years, I would never be this strong.”
Melissa is happy that juvenile arthritis is finally receiving the attention it deserves. The awareness advocating a cure for the disease has come a long way since she was a child and the availability of medications now is much more widespread. After hearing about the Arthritis National Research Foundation through Facebook, Melissa also wants to share her story to shed some positivity on those who may need it, hopefully letting them know that as arthritis sufferers, they are not alone. She is confident that through the use of social media, finding a community of mutual sufferers is possible and can boost morale.
To that community of sufferers, Melissa says this: “Every time I have a bad day, it’s mind over matter. This disease may have its fair share of control, but the mind has a say too; you choose to keep pushing and fighting. In the end, you’re in control!”
Do YOU have juvenile or another form of arthritis? Tell us how you can relate to Melissa’s story below!
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