When Willow was 7 and a half years old, one of her feet started to hurt. The pain got worse and worse until both her feet, both ankles, and both knees were sore. Doctors couldn’t figure out what was going on. Willow’s mom had to carry her a lot and give her piggy-back rides. It was hard to walk, and she couldn’t run. She had to stop playing soccer and ringette, dancing and being on the swim team.
In September 2018, Willow had her first appointment at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax. Then, on October 15 (her 8th birthday) she was diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis. Willow wasn’t sure how to feel because she didn’t know what arthritis was but was happy to start medication to help her feel better.
At first, Willow had to take medicine every day, including Naproxen and Methotrexate. More recently, she only takes Humira by injection every two weeks. She says that the medicine really stings when it goes into her leg, so she tries watching a video and eating M&M’s to make it easier! Some days, when she feels sore, Willow has a hot shower and will take breaks from long walks and activities.
When Willow first started to feel pain, she couldn’t do the activities she loves like swimming, skating, running, or even jumping. She couldn’t be a part of sports teams anymore and it hurt to play the piano and violin too.
At school, Willow had to use a lift to go up and down the stairs. She also had a special desk with a special seat and needed different writing tools and sporting equipment. Willow needed to take a lot of breaks and it was hard to play with her friends at recess.
Having arthritis is also very difficult because most people don’t understand what it is or how it feels. Willow needs to explain her arthritis to people a lot, and sometimes her friends don’t understand why she can’t participate in gym class.
Now that Willow is taking medicine, she can run, swim, and jump again! She wants to play ringette and hopes she doesn’t need as many special items at school this year.
A nurse at the IWK Health Centre told Willow and her mom about Camp JoinTogether and the Arthritis Society. At Camp JoinTogether this summer, she loved archery, music, campfires, swimming, and really everything about it! She made lots of new friends, loved hanging out together and hopes they can all go again next year.
When asked what Willow would tell another kid who just found out they had arthritis, she says, “I would tell them right away to go to Camp JoinTogether!”
She adds that she would tell other kids with arthritis that it’s hard to take medicine, but it is worth it. “The doctors and nurses at the IWK Health Centre know how to make you feel better. You won’t always feel this sore. Try to stay positive – you will be able to do everything you love again.”