While as many as 24,000 children in Canada have arthritis, it can often feel isolating when you are living through the experience.

That’s why Trisha Westerman-Beatty of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. wants to share the story of her five-year-old daughter, Marlie.

Their journey with arthritis began Dec. 31, 2017, when Marlie was just three years old. 

Photography of MarlieMarlie was playing with her cousins when she tripped down the stairs, causing her knee to swell from the impact. While she quickly felt better and resumed playing, Trisha and her husband Charlie, decided to play it safe and have her looked at by a doctor. 

The X-ray ruled out broken bones and the doctor dismissed the young family with an invitation to come back if the pain and swelling didn’t dissipate. 

Over the next two weeks, the situation did not improve and Marlie had started limping, prompting a further visit to the doctor, an orthopaedic surgeon and finally an MRI. 

As the family waited for a diagnosis, Trisha watched as Marlie’s mood and physical condition deteriorated at an alarming rate.

“She lost interest in colouring or drawing. She could go hours, even a full day, without walking. She was sore all the time and it was so painful to see. We had no idea what to do,” recalls the mother.

“We finally got the call from a rheumatologist. I was so confused at first. They explained she was suffering from juvenile idiopathic arthritis.”

While it was a diagnosis no parent ever wants to hear, it did offer relief because it provided answers. 

Over the following months, Marlie also had to deal with uveitis, a form of eye inflammation, and tried different treatments to keep her diseases under control. 

While arthritis presents daily struggles for the young family, Marlie’s rigorous treatment regime of eye drops, injections, blood work and regular visits to the medical centre has greatly improved her quality of life. 

Nowadays, you can find her riding ponies at the local ranch and snuggling with her young puppy, Roo.

“She has such an artistic mind. She never wants to put her crayons down. To see her running and be active again really brings a tear to my husband’s eyes and mine. Nothing stops her now.” 

Trisha and Marlie have taken an active role in raising awareness about this devastating disease and have organized a few fundraising events to benefit the Arthritis Society. 

Trisha hopes for the day when her daughter can make friends with another child living with arthritis. 

“Kids sometimes don’t have the language to express their feelings. They could share their experience and learn from one another. As a parent, I fear my child could one day feel alone or misunderstood.”

We hope the life-affirming friendship comes soon

Learn more about childhood arthritis.

Read about the Arthritis Society’s resources for families and children with arthritis. 

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