When Laurence Boivin’s rheumatologist told her she had to stop playing hockey, the little 10-year-old girl started crying.

For her, it was not just some hobby and she had no intention of waving a white flag.

Photography of Laurence playing hockeyFive years later, the Chambly, Que. resident, now jumps on the ice five times a week as part of her sport-study program and grazes the ice surface four times a week wearing her local team’s colours. As the only girl on her men’s U18 AA team, Laurence also believes she is the only female in the league at this level.

The netminder looks up to her idol, Carter Hart, the young goaltender of the Philadelphia Flyers, renowned for his passion.

“He’s always fighting to see the puck. He never gives up. Watching him play is inspiring.”

Just like her idol, Laurence does not give up. A recent knee injury and a resurgence of juvenile arthritis symptoms kept her off the ice for almost six months.

“It was hard. Hockey is my life. I had to do a lot of physiotherapy to restrengthen my weakened leg. I’m happy to be back in the game.”

She dreams of a career in sports at the university level, but also understands the value of continuously training to strengthen fragile joints.

“I regularly train in the gym. It keeps me in shape and keeps my joints moving so they don’t get too stiff. I can’t afford to stop.”

For Laurence, the last few years have been synonymous with growth. She first learned how to overcome the anxiety she felt prior to her methotrexate injections. And, at a psychological level, she now knows how to deal with the uncertainties of her disease.

“I listen to my body more than before. Sometimes you want to do something, but your body doesn’t respond. Now when this happens, I wait and I gradually try again the next day. I always try again.”

The 15-year-old teen recognizes the support she receives from her teammates and coaches. They now understand it is a disease, not an injury, and when training is more difficult, the instructors sometimes ease up on Laurence by giving her more time to recover. It’s something she is grateful for.

The hockey player formed a team in the summer of 2016 to participate in the Walk for Arthritis and raised more than $2,000 for a cause she cares deeply about. She took a great deal of pride from all these achievements.

“I felt like I was running for those who can’t. Despite my illness, I manage to be successful in the challenges I take on. Others are less fortunate than me and I realize that.”

Among the many proud moments of her young career, her participation in Quebec City’s International Women’s Hockey Tournament was one of the most important. Only 13 at the time, Laurence had been selected as goalkeeper for the women’s 15-17-age team. Her composure, fighting spirit and skills were put to the test and thanks to her solid performance, her team won the tournament.

According to her mother, Laurence’s determination and maturity are in part due to her devastating juvenile arthritis illness. She would, however, not change a thing because she is proud of the young woman that Laurence is becoming.

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