Arthritis changed him, he changed others

Note from AydenThere is a seven-year-old boy in Burlington, Ontario who has never known a life without pain. That’s what his rheumatologist says. Clues had long been stacking up – the swollen big toe, the right wrist that didn’t bend, the inability to pedal his bike.

Ayden Soares learned he had juvenile arthritis in spring of 2014 at the age of six. But he has doused his diagnosis in remarkable ambition.

That diagnosis initially “crushed” him, says mom Sonja. Ayden had been training at a local taekwondo club – but dreams of a black belt appeared suddenly over. “He was very quiet; he was in shock,” she says. “You want the best for your children, and something like this happens.”

Ayden is a young boy handed a diagnosis that is not easy to comprehend.

He’s also the one that told his mom that “we need to make a change.” He raised $2,000 in just two weeks for the Walk to Fight Arthritis that he just heard about. “Ayden recognized that people didn’t know about childhood arthritis,” Sonja says. “It was very important for him to change that.”

Ayden couldn’t run well. He couldn’t keep up with soccer and often sits out gym class.

He’s also the one who refused to do the 1 km Walk to Fight Arthritis route – only the 5 km trail would do. To train, he and Sonja tried a 1 km walk one night. Next was a 2.5 km walk that left him exhausted and hurting. Despite this, Ayden wanted to show everyone he could fight arthritis. “He walked the entire 5 km,” Sonja says. “He collapsed at the finish line, in tears because of pain, but he had a smile on his face.”

Ayden expected to have to quit taekwondo.

Ayden painting Tobias, his taekwondo instructor, in a fundraising activity for arthritis.
Ayden painting Tobias, his taekwondo instructor, in a fundraising activity for arthritis.

But his club told him and his family to always fight for what you want. With modified routines, Ayden continues to pursue his dream of a black belt. His strength and will spurred his club to host an entire tournament in support of The Arthritis Society.

With 11 joints inflamed, Ayden’s wrist remains the big problem. Sonja injects medication into her son every Friday night, which makes Ayden sick for most of Saturday.

And the goal for that tournament is $15,000. That matches his fundraising goal for the 2015 Walk to Fight Arthritis – meaning his efforts may far exceed his own lofty ambitions.

Ayden takes medication so that he can play the way his friends do. He wears a wrist splint to school and to sleep.

He also prefers to think of others. When another boy was having symptoms familiar to him, Ayden shared his story with the family. This knowledge alone led to a quicker arthritis diagnosis.

Ayden can’t carry a school bag with books inside. He wears lifts in his shoes to help walk. He wakes up stiff each morning.

“I can’t put a Band-Aid on this and tell him everything is going to be okay,” Sonja says. “But Ayden has inspired a lot of people to do a lot of good. Life is short and precious. Ayden figured all that out on his own.”


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