Spend just five minutes with Olivia to see what super-strength looks like in a ten year old. On a good day, Olivia can be found horseback riding, swimming, dancing or hanging out with friends.
Other days, her invisible battle against juvenile arthritis takes all her strength and concentration, sometimes leaving her unable to walk. After her first visit to the doctor, it took six months to find an arthritis diagnosis and begin the journey to being comfortable.
But being comfortable isn’t what makes a superhero. Being a superhero sometimes means venturing into the unknown to do what’s right.
“Every night before bed, I thought should I join the Walk to Fight Arthritis? And then I thought: I want to find a cure. I don’t want other kids having to live with arthritis because it’s a terrible disease that kids and adults can get,” explains Olivia. “I want to help other people.”
And so Olivia has taken on Halifax with superhuman strength and extraordinary strategy, just like Wonder Woman herself. Creating a video to show what a day in her life is like, Olivia is reaching out to other strong leaders to raise awareness of the fight she faces everyday.
“This is something she did on her own,” explains John, Olivia’s very proud father. “She created a plan and came to me when she had put it all together. She’s already my superhero,” John beams. “She just needs her cape.”
That heroic spirit is why Olivia was recently named the Walk Hero for the 2017 Walk to Fight Arthritis at the Emera Oval in Halifax on Sunday, June 4th. The Arthritis Society is encouraging participants to dress like their favourite superheroes to support heroes like Olivia who battle arthritis every day in plain sight.
Beginning when she was six, Olivia experienced knee pain, a high fever and hives. After multiple visits to specialists, it was official: the diagnosis of juvenile arthritis came and she now feels the pain of arthritis in her feet, hips, hands and wrists.
“When I was diagnosed, I thought I’d take some medicine and get all better. Now I know arthritis feels like pain and sadness and I don’t want other kids to have to feel this way.”
Olivia is a inspirational young lady who doesn’t let arthritis stop her from pushing herself to do her best, or keeping up with her friends. But just like any superhero, Olivia’s strength doesn’t last forever. At ten years old she understands that knowing her limits is one of the most important strategies in life with arthritis and builds respite into each day when needed.
While Olivia and her family understand her diagnosis and what it means for her, it’s harder for friends and teachers to understand why sometimes Olivia has to step back, take a break and stretch her joints. She hopes that by taking part in the Walk she will help raise awareness for others who feel the pain of arthritis.
“Olivia taking it on herself that she wants to fight for a cure is incredible. We want to find it so she doesn’t have to deal with it, and her focus is that she wants to find a cure so others don’t have to live with arthritis,” John describes.
“Ultimately, we’re fighting the same fight.”