At 21 years old, Rachel is a driven and passionate young woman. A third year Bachelor of Science student at Memorial University, Rachel’s studies are leading her on the path to becoming a rheumatologist – a goal she could not be more eager to achieve.
“I want to show others they can be diagnosed with arthritis but still be happy with their life and still find something they are passionate about,” explains Rachel. “Sometimes that might mean giving up on other things and realizing that’s okay”.
These lessons are personal to Rachel. It was seven years ago after waking up with swelling and stiffness in her fingers that Rachel began her own journey with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis – a form of childhood arthritis with no known cause or cure.
“This diagnosis came as a shock to me. At the tender age of fourteen, I was very uneducated about arthritis. I had only ever heard about it in reference to elderly people,” Rachel describes. “I had no idea what to expect or what was in store for me.”
Soon Rachel’s arthritis spread from her fingers to her wrists, elbows, ankles and knees. Injections, medications, appointments, doctors, specialists and surgeries followed and now Rachel struggles with tasks as simple as brushing her hair, putting on socks or preparing food. Squeezing a tube of toothpaste inflicts great pain in her fingers and wrists. There are few things she can do on her own and the simple task of getting out of bed and ready for school is a painful process both physically and mentally.
The misconceptions of those living with arthritis and chronic pain is an issue Rachel often considers. Rachel recalls one particular day at school that her legs and ankles felt well enough to take the stairs, but the pain in her fingers, wrists and elbows made the doors leading to the stairwell an agonising struggle. Rachel says it is these situations, where the assumption is that anyone who is able to walk down the stairs can open the door to get to them, which are the most frustrating.
“Arthritis can’t always be seen, so it doesn’t often cross people’s minds,” Rachel explains. “They can’t see you toss and turn in bed for hours trying to get comfortable or see you stalling to get out of bed in the morning because you’re afraid of the pain you know is going to come when you put your feet on the floor.”
Rachel’s dedication to creating awareness and supporting those facing arthritis is why she was recently named the Walk Hero for The Arthritis Society’s 2017 Walk to Fight Arthritis at the Paradise Rotary Youth Community Centre in Paradise, NL on Sunday, June 4.
“The Walk raises money that goes towards simply improving the quality of life of the people with this disease while also working towards finding a cure so that someday no one will struggle to stay in school, keep their job, or simply put on a pair of socks,” describes Rachel. “Having arthritis can so easily make you feel isolated and alone, so the Walk is important for the sole fact that it provides hope and support to people affected by arthritis. Knowing that there are people who care and who are making the effort to put an end to arthritis is extremely beneficial to how we cope with and take charge of this disease.”
Join Rachel and her team in taking steps towards an arthritis-free future on June 4th. Register today!