Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis | A Diagnosis, Not a Definition

Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosis Not Definition

Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis | A Diagnosis, Not a Definition

Chelsie Calvert was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA) in 1992 at a mere 14 months old. She has spent a lifetime not allowing the diagnosis of JRA to define her. Rather, she has worked and continues to work hard to rise above it, carving out a successful life while being a strong advocate in the fight against this disease.

Arthritis affects Children too!

Growing up, it was difficult to gain acceptance and understanding by her peers as she was the only child in her hometown with a diagnosis of JRA. Arthritis is most often seen as a disease experienced by the elderly, many of us unaware of the devastation it can cause in childhood sufferers. Chelsie hopes that by sharing her story and experiences with RA, both good and bad, she may help others to feel less isolated and alone in their own struggles.

“There is so much power in knowledge and the more we know and share the more we all can benefit.”

This belief closely mirrors those of ANRF, of which Chelsie has been a strong supporter. “Organizations like ANRF constantly inspire me with their dedication, research and passion to help find a cure. I am comforted in my worst days knowing there are others relentlessly dedicated to this cause and fight. As such, I was so thrilled when Dr. Nahle Invited me to share my story in the ANRF Chronicle.”

Earlier in her journey, Chelsie felt victimized by her JRA diagnosis. However, she discovered that dwelling on her diagnosis did not make it go away, nor did it make the pain she experiences any easier to bare. Instead of letting this wear her down, she made a command decision: she couldn’t change her diagnosis, but she could change her perspective. By deciding to not allow JRA to turn her into a victim, she was able to let go of her anger and start to embrace the good things in her life. It is important to her to acknowledge that mental health support for those living with these diseases is equally as important as trying to treat the physical symptoms and causes.

Chelsie Calvert | JRA

The good old adage “But You look Normal”

One of the biggest challenges she has had to overcome is the stigma associated with “invisible illnesses”. There have been countless times that someone that lacks understanding has uttered the phrase – “but you don’t look sick.” It is extremely difficult to battle RA, but even more so when you have to attempt to convince people you are in fact ill, despite not looking like what others expect being ill to look like. “I implore people not to judge others by their looks. You truly don’t know what inner battles they are fighting.” This holds true for a number of diseases, an elegant way in which to attempt to garner understanding was put forward by a young Lupus suffer, known as the spoon theory. This can be read at ButYouDontLookSick.com offering greater insight in to this issue.

Chelsie discovered that support systems and understanding friends and family were a game changer for her moving forward in living with RA. Chelsie, along with many other sufferers, openly states that at times she has felt like a burden to those around her. However, their love and support has ensured; she no longer feels as if she is fighting the battle alone. Chelsie is particularly thankful for her husband Dane, whom she married in 2015. “He is especially patient and involved with my disease, he relentlessly reminds me I’m not broken and that we can tackle each day’s new challenges together.”

The Calverts

Chelsie’s plans for the future include focusing on educating and empowering those living with RA. She has taken a decision to not allow RA to limit the life she lives. Both physically and mentally, she strives to live her life to the fullest. Her advice for others battling this and other such illnesses is: “It is so important to remember your body will react to everything you put in or do to it, knowing it is ok to be selective with what you decide to do day-to-day. It isn’t selfish, it is necessary to maintain good health. Live the good days to the fullest and lean on those close to you on the bad days.” Chelsie fully embraces this concept: she not only completed her Bachelors of Business, but is currently working towards her Master’s degree while working full time – a feat many would find intimidating without the complication of a serious autoimmune disease. This attitude and the hard work she puts in has also ensured a supportive workplace at Thermo Fisher Scientific. This support allows her to continue to excel in a company that strives to make the world be healthier, cleaner and safer.

The ANRF wishes Chelsie, Dane and their two Boston terriers the very best as she continues to be an inspiration to those around her, reminding us of why the Foundation exists and the importance of the objectives it seeks to achieve.

Kids Get Arthritis: Read more inspiring stories of Children with Arthritis here.

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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!

2 Comments
  • Avatar
    John P. Lynch
    Posted at 09:47h, 06 February Reply

    Chelsie, I know what you have been through because I have lived with the effects of JRA for 60 years. Despite this, I managed, with the help of my family, to secure a BA, MBA, and JD. It was worth the time and effort to do so. Stay the course and you will have a successful and rewarding career. The best to you in your endeavor.
    John P. Lynch

  • Avatar
    Eleanor Russell
    Posted at 17:25h, 16 February Reply

    I am just like her. Except I have JIA.

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