Hi, my name is Sheridan. Now almost 35 years old, I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis at the age of two.

Most people don’t know that kids develop arthritis too. In fact, three kids in a thousand, or about one in every school, live with juvenile arthritis. It’s a type of inflammatory arthritis that causes the immune system to attack healthy cells in the joints, causing inflammation. And because a young body is growing rapidly, this can lead to severe issues.

For me, visits to the pediatric rheumatologist were frequent, and treatments included painful physiotherapy, strong medications, including regular injections that caused severe side effects, and I spent more than my fair share of time in the hospital.

Because I was so young, growing up with this disease was all I knew. I didn’t know what it felt like to not be in pain, or to do many of the physical things I would see my peers do. Even my brother, who played sports like baseball and hockey.

I learned how to live with pain daily at such a young age, that I could easily push it to the back of my mind and hide it well. I would hide having a disease whenever I could because I hated being “different” from all the other kids around me. I hated the look of “feeling sorry” and right away being seen as not like them. I hated the look of “sadness” and “hurt” I would see on my parents’ faces and in their eyes – because I was hurting and there was nothing they could do about it. I would hide any pain from them whenever I could. Their pain was more important to me than my own. Because I could deal with my own.

I believe in many ways, although I am the one who had to live with this disease, it was much harder for them. They would fight with me overdoing my exercises or taking my injections – seeing the pain even those caused – because they knew how much it would benefit me.

Even though I didn’t know it then – it did. And it has. At the age of 16, I was given the wonderful news that I was now in remission from this disease! No more splints, no more flare-ups! The damage that had already been done throughout most of my body’s joints, over so many years, could not be reversed or fixed. But at least I wouldn’t have to endure more… or so I thought.

I still remember being 17 years old and sitting with my mother and an Orthopedic Surgeon in his office. After many different tests, it was determined I had developed Osteoarthritis in both knees, and that I would need total knee replacements once the pain had become too much to bear in each. After years of damage from Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, cartilage had deteriorated and my bones were soon literally rubbing against each other. There was nothing else that could be done.

Upon hearing this news, I was very scared and also sad. I thought I had beaten this disease and somewhat become “normal”, but I feared it had finally beaten me.

The first day came, and at the age of 18, I had my right knee replaced. Once again, my parents were there to do exercises and help me through it. I was recouped within three weeks! I was determined to keep going, to not let arthritis define me – and the replacement actually made me feel better than I had in years! Just ten years later, at the age of 28, I had my left knee replaced. A couple of months before my wedding! I was once again recouped pretty quickly and determined to keep moving on.

Reaching into my twenties, I had learned to not hide arthritis anymore, because it has made me into the person I am today. It is a big part of my life but hasn’t beaten me, and it doesn’t define me. Although some days it feels like it.

At age 33, soon after my boy was born, I went out of remission from my juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. The hard part was admitting it to myself, and realizing I needed to see my rheumatologist again. That I needed help controlling this disease again, and that it was affecting my mental state – as well as my physical state.

You see, it brought me back to my childhood just like that. To all the feelings I felt – the depression, feeling sorry for myself and trying so hard to ignore the never-ending pain. Not only this, but you have no idea how hard it was being “mom” with no medication to help. I had flare up after flare up – and it was all I could do to not drop my baby boy down the stairs.

It was hard. But I got through it, and now I’m back on medication to control this disease.

But, the story doesn’t end there, and who knows if it ever will…

Almost two years ago, I was placed on strong biologics called Enbrel, and a form of Cymbalta for my osteoarthritis pain. This combination, along with Vimovo for pain, has also added Folliculitis to my mix of things to take medication for! Because of this, my Rheumatologist just recently changed my biologic medication from Enbrel to Humira.

I don’t want to be on these strong meds, but I know it’s best for me right now.

I may even become the first bionic woman with all these joints affected by osteoarthritis! 🙂 What’s the joy in life, if we can’t find the humour, right?

Now I’m a mom to a three-year-old girl and two-year-old boy! Both are healthy and happy babies – which I thank God for daily. That is what I want most. For them to never have to endure this disease. It’s also what I fear most.

I’m also an advocate for arthritis, speaking about what I’ve been through – and what I go through today. I am – like everyone – my own work in progress, proving to myself that you can do anything you put your mind to.

Believe in yourself! 💗