Jenna Battles Juvenile Arthritis

Jenna Battles Juvenile Arthritis

Jenna was only four when she was diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis and Uveitis. Though she experienced a period of “medical remission” for less than two months, arthritis is a burden that she has had to live with for the majority of her young life.

Back in 2008, Jenna’s parents took her to their family doctor due to a case of swollen knees. When they discovered arthritis was the culprit, they thought they were in for an easy fix with a blend of a few medications. However, with arthritis, an easy fix is almost unheard of.

Below is a video created by her mother to support arthritis awareness and arthritis research.

When Jenna’s condition spiraled out of control, her parents were forced to uproot their family and move from Maine to North Carolina where Jenna could be treated at Duke Children’s Hospital. To make matters more relentless, Jenna was also suffering from constant ear and lung infections because her immune system was severely compromised from her medications. After four years of living in North Carolina, Jenna’s doctors decided it was an appropriate time to begin weaning her off of her medications. Unfortunately her arthritis is still active and her medical team is trying to find the right method of treatment that doesn’t diminish her health, but that also achieves lasting results.

Jenna Cunningham battles juvenile idiopathic arthritis and uvetis

“Sometimes I feel as though these diseases have stolen Jenna’s innocence along with her youth. I feel as though they have hardened her,” Jenna’s mother, Amy, said. “But the plus side is that they have made her stronger and more determined.”

Jenna’s treatment protocol consists of a daily NSAID, weekly DMARD, and a bi-weekly biologic. In the past she has also undergone both occupational and physical therapy.

Although they had to leave family and friends behind when they decided to move, Jenna’s family is a tight-knit one and all agreed it was the best solution to keep her diseases under control. Whenever they decide to embark on daily activities or special events, everything is planned around Jenna’s appointments, injections, and how she is feeling. If some of the family wants to go to the park on the weekend, but Jenna doesn’t feel well, then no one goes. “It’s very much a family affair,” Amy conceded. “Both of my other children have had to make HUGE sacrifices due to their sisters’ arthritis.”

Despite her affliction, Jenna’s personal problems are very relatable for a girl her age – she just wants to fit in. She doesn’t want to stand out because of swollen joints and she tries her hardest to physically keep up with her peers. When she can’t, she becomes frustrated. After all, even going for a walk can be painful enough to bring her to tears. One of her favorite things however is being in the water. From swimming to boogie boarding, Amy revealed that being in the water makes Jenna feel like she is not affected by arthritis at all. It is the only time that her body can move freely, without pain.

To spread awareness on behalf of both Jenna and juvenile arthritis in general, her mother, Amy, created the video above that conveys what it means to be a family going through one of its members being affected by arthritis. She hopes that all families can stay strong and support each other when an arthritis diagnosis is involved.  Please take a minute to view the video and share her story.

If you’d like to share your arthritis story, contact KYLE! To help put an end to juvenile arthritis please make a donation.

ANRF
Article Author
Arthritis National Research Foundation
arthritisresearch@curearthritis.org

The Arthritis National Research Foundation's mission is to provide initial research funding to brilliant, investigative scientists with new ideas to cure arthritis and related autoimmune diseases. Writing articles about the patients affected and the science being done to find a cure shows why we need to come together to #CureArthritis!

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