Some mornings, 18-month-old Jenika cried to be picked up and could not walk until the afternoon. She sat on the couch for hours and as the day went by she would gradually start acting like the toddler that she was.
Her parents noticed her strange behaviour and doctor visits led to more questions as no one could figure out what was wrong with the little girl.
Eventually after visiting more doctors and spending a week in Montreal with specialists, Jenika had a diagnosis of juvenile arthritis - a form of childhood arthritis with no known cause or cure that already affected more than five joints in her growing body.
Now, eleven years later, Jenika is 13 years old and has good days and bad days. On good days, she keeps up with her friends and younger brother. On bad days her arms tire from the simple task of washing her hair and laying in bed with Molly, her lovable cat, is the most Jenika can do.
“I wish that people understood that even if they can’t see anything physically wrong with me that the disease is still very real,” Jenika describes. “I have to deal with pain and needles and doctors. A lot.”
For a young girl with a chronic illness, Jenika tends to be a little slower in activities and is not as active as her friends even though she always tries her best. She loves to read, draw and play music on her keyboard.
While Jenika feels lucky to have a support team in her family and friends who understand the pain she faces everyday – there is still lots for people to learn about children living with juvenile arthritis. Perhaps nothing illustrates this quite as well as the day Jenika went to school with a note describing her condition and was still asked to run laps with the other students.
So Jenika has accepted the torch and will be the Walk Hero at The Arthritis Society’s Walk to Fight Arthritis at Mapleton Park in Moncton on Sunday June 4th. Now that Jenika is older, she feels it is important to use this opportunity to make everyone aware of arthritis and its effects on the lives of those living with the disease.
“Young people with arthritis might think that no one understands or that they’re alone, but they are not. There are people all across the world that understand and have the same thing,” explains Jenika. “That’s why it’s important to do the Walk.”
Join Jenika and her team on June 4th to take steps toward an arthritis-free future. Register today!