It’s your first year of high school, it’s time to come out of your shell. You’re trying out for a sport you wouldn’t have dared to try out for in middle school, Cheerleading. You make the team and it’s the first game! You’re filled with excitement, but nervous as ever. You walk out on that field and begin the dance routine you’ve been practicing for weeks now. All of a sudden you feel a sharp pain in your shoulder, a pain you’ve never felt before. You go home that night, unable to sleep, because of the intense pain. It’s as if you broke your shoulder. Your parents know exactly what’s wrong, but they can’t do anything to help you. The next day your parents sit you down and explain to you that life is about to get really complicated really fast. You’re confused and angry. That girl was me, and this is when my whole life turned upside down.

What are the odds of mimicking your father’s exact DNA? All the way down to the month, age, and exact site of onset of Arthritis. Apparently, the odds are rare enough that the scientists that study this disease, are interested in studying my entire family’s DNA.

I don’t have your typical Arthritis. The disease I carry is the most erosive degenerative Arthritis known to the most recent studies. I have Juvenile Polyarticular Idiopathic Arthritis. It includes Ankylosing Spondylitis, Osteo and Rheumatoid Arthritis. For those of you who are unsure what Arthritis is, the disease I carry causes my immune system to mistakenly attack my body’s tissues. This causes inflammation in my joints and other parts of my body, causing erosion of the bones.

When people hear the word “Arthritis” they usually relate it to their grandparents, or repetitive injury. That’s how little is known of this disease. You don’t usually come across someone at my age with this disease, but it is more common than we think.

When I’m down at Stanford Pediatric Rheumatology Children’s Hospital, I see kids as young as four years old with knee replacements due to erosion of the bones. “Almost 300,000 children in the United States have Arthritis, and 54 million adults have Arthritis in the United States.” *

For those of you who are wondering what the difference is between each type of Arthritis:

Ankylosing Spondylitis Arthritis is all the large joints in the body, such as knees, hips, back (spine), shoulders, and neck.

Rheumatoid Arthritis is all your small joints in the body, such as the hands, fingers, wrists, elbows, toes, feet, and ankles.

The most common places for Osteoarthritis to occur is in the neck, hands, lower back, knees and hips!

When any of these joints are inflamed many of the following symptoms can take place, redness, rash, swelling, heat, throbbing sensations, etc. I personally experience all the above, including the feeling of my bones feeling like they are going to collapse. My feet feel like I'm walking on marbles.

There is no cure to this horrible disease, but there are ways to help it. If you’re more into natural ways of helping it, you could take CBD oil drops. The drops don’t affect you the way marijuana does. You could also try all the remedies you can find online, such as mixing turmeric powder in your food or drink, or getting golden raisins and letting them soak in gin and eating 10 a day. There are lots of natural ways to help the disease without taking hard core medications.

Believe it or not, a lot of the foods we eat every day are foods that cause inflammation and aches and pains. For example, avoid dairy, sugar, salt and preservatives, fried foods, gluten, wheat, red meat, and avoid drinking alcohol and tobacco.

You wouldn’t think vegetables would ever be the cause of your pain, but it very well could be. Vegetables such as potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers could be why.

There are also foods you can eat that may help, like pineapple, ginger, and cherries. Basically, having a very stern diet, and eliminating foods you probably eat everyday could better your condition significantly. Exercising and stretching daily could also improve it. They say a body in motion stays in motion.

You’ve seen the commercial about Humira right? The shot that’s for people with severe conditions of arthritis. There are many medications and injections you can take for this disease. Pills that help are prednisone, hydroxychloroquine, leflunomide, methotrexate, sulfasalazine, and minocycline. Injections that help are Humira, Enbrel, Methotrexate, Steroid injections, etc.

There are lots of ways to help, just a lot of experimenting and finding which method is right for you and works for you.

With this in mind, you could only imagine that not only does this affect me physically, but mentally and emotionally it has been the biggest challenge and most life changing experience I have ever had. However, because of this challenge I have acquired a compassion for people that has allowed me to be on a whole different level than most people my age. Clearly, I wouldn’t have been given this life if I wasn’t strong enough to live it.

* www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/understanding-arthritis/arthritis-statistics-facts.php

• Clarissa Blunt wrote this article as part of her senior project at Mount Shasta High School.