I Love My Life, But I Admit My Life Is Very Hard | Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis

I Love My Life, But I Admit My Life Is Very Hard | Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis

David Leonard knows what it’s like to hit a roadblock. For the past two decades he has tried nearly every treatment available for his juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, but despite his best efforts, his disease is still very active. The lack of marked improvement in symptoms would be devastating to just about anyone, but David hasn’t let that get in the way of his positive disposition.

Throughout his life, David had to make some serious decisions about how to move forward and has opted for a number of joint replacement surgeries once his own joints became damaged beyond repair. Now, he is coming forward with his story to share that even the most challenging obstacles can be faced with hope, courage and a smile.

“I’ve been going through this ordeal since I was ten years old without knowing anyone with the same condition and I never really got any advice along the way,” said David. “I would be crushed if someone else was out there feeling lost and alone like I was.”

Cure Arthritis | Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis


David’s Joint Replacement Therapy

David is 31 and lives in Liverpool, England. Since his childhood, he has tried the gamut of treatment options, including medications, injections and physiotherapy. However, nothing seemed to ease his suffering and he has significant damage inflicted upon his joints from his juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

“I love my life, but I admit my life is very hard. My inflammation levels are always elevated, so I feel awful all the time. I never have any energy and even the simplest tasks, like walking to the kitchen, can sometimes seem almost impossible.”

As a last resort, to help treat his joint pain and damage caused by juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, David’s doctor recommended joint replacement surgery. Not just one joint, so far, he’s had roughly a dozen joint replacements – including his shoulders, hips, hands, feet, ankles and an impending elbow surgery down the road. Most of these surgeries were completed one after another within a span of just a few years, which led to an excruciating and protracted recovery period. However, each surgery brought David a small step forward to physical freedom from the disease that had previously limited him so greatly.

“I spent my teenage years in a wheelchair. When I was I was eighteen, I managed to get out of it and that was a major victory for me. No matter how many operations I need, I’ll do it as long as it means I never have to go back in that wheelchair!”

Remaining Positive Despite Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis

While his joint replacements are invisible, David’s most prominent trait he possesses is his upbeat, positive personality, which has helped him cope with the most challenging of obstacles. But he also shared that it hasn’t all been perfect, he has had struggles with depression due to his illness causing him to reflect and question how he wants to lead his life. Knowing this makes his current positivity just that much more inspiring and hopeful. He looks to and finds support in his family, who has been understanding and has always been there to lift him up. However, the times he lives for are when the tables are turned, and it’s David, who’s infectious spirit, lifts up his family in return.

“David is the strongest and bravest person I know,” said David’s cousin, Carly. “Even though he suffers every second of the day and goes through traumatic pain, he will never let it bring him down in front of others. He is always happy and an amazing person to be with. You never feel sad around him. He always stays positive.”

David and Carly | Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis

David has tried nearly every medication available for his juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and has failed to see success with most of them. He believes that constantly developing new and improved medications can ensure that a wider range of options that patients can benefit from. That’s exactly why he wants to see continued progress with arthritis research, not only for him, but for generations to come.

“Many of my joints have already been replaced, so I fear there’s not much more than can be done for me. However, I firmly believe that the work the Arthritis National Research Foundation is doing will help future generations.”

With his positive mindset and passion for life, David is not just getting by, but thriving despite his juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. By speaking up about his trials and tribulations, David is making sure that others with juvenile arthritis know that life with arthritis isn’t the end of the world. David has endured numerous medical hardships, but thanks to his infectious smile and hopeful spirit, the only way one would be able to tell is with an X-ray machine.

“I want my story to give others comfort that they’re not alone and I especially want parents of children with arthritis to know that their child can grow up to live a happy life.”

Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis Family

Does David’s positivity and hopeful spirit inspire you? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Article Author
Arthritis National Research Foundation

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!

  • Avatar
    Stephanie kelley
    Posted at 20:18h, 01 September Reply

    David your story is imspiering to me as I have an 11 year old son who suffers from JIA. He is in daily pain.. He I believe suffers silently with depression.. I hope we can foster in him the positive attitude that you have.

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      David Leonard
      Posted at 17:56h, 05 September Reply

      Hi Stephanie

      If you would like to stay in contact for any advice from me or my parents (since they raised me with arthritis) then I’d be happy to help in any way I can.

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    Laura Hering
    Posted at 22:07h, 01 September Reply

    Dear David, I am so inspired by you, thank you for sharing your story:) Let me introduce myself, my name is Laura Hering, I’ve been married 18 years to an amazing man who has the most beautiful servant heart ever. I am the Mama to three healthy beautiful boys, Kyle-13, Micah-11 and Luke-9. I am sooooooooo blessed!!!! I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis when I was thirteen years old, I am now almost 47. I would have never made it through without my Jesus, I am a Christian through and through. He is our sustainer, comforter, shelter, joy. Since I was diagnosed, I have had two hip replacements, bi-lateral knee replacements, and major reconstruction in both feet. I have yet to do my hands, honestly not thinking about it much. My shoulders are frozen so I’m sure they will need to be done someday. Anyway, I would love for us to be friends, . I believe everything happens for a reason, for me, I know God allowed me to have this disease so that I could be an encourager, a light in the midst of suffering and pain. I can now be thankful for all I’ve been through, because I have seen the beautiful way God has orchestrated my life and how He has created beauty from ashes:) Thank you for sharing your story:) Let’s stay in touch!!! I will be praying for you:-)

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      David Leonard
      Posted at 18:02h, 05 September Reply

      Hi Laura

      Thank you for your kind words and I’m sorry to hear that you have been suffering. I’m not a religious person but I think it’s amazing that your faith shines so brightly it blinds what is a horrible illness. My faith is in my family, they are my rock and I’m sure you’re the same. I do hope that God is watching over all of us and watching is fight and try to be the best people we can be. All we can do is keep fighting this horrible illness!

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    Sarabeth Turman
    Posted at 20:37h, 02 September Reply

    Hi David. You are a very inspirational person. I was diagnosed with JRA at 18 months of age. I’m now 30 years old. I know how it feels to hurt everyday and be fatigued. It’s nice to have others to talk to who know what you’re going through. Hopefully we could be friends on facebook. God bless you! 🙂

    • Avatar
      David Leonard
      Posted at 19:26h, 04 September Reply

      You can find me on the comments on the Facebook page feel free to add me 🙂

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    Carla Elliott
    Posted at 21:08h, 02 September Reply

    David, I have had arthritis since the age of 7, 45 yrs now, and I want to thank you for sharing your story; I too feel alone from time to time. To date, ive never met another me, RA , part bionic, crutches, and still mobile.

    Because of you, for the 1st time I don’t feel quite alone :-). May God Continue to Bless you and your family. Stay strong and keep that personality.

    The world of medicine, science, research, has come a long way, and I am not only greatful to be alive, thriving, and benefiting from tireless efforts, but pray that research continues, so that we and thousands x thousands can lead a productive, energetic, pain free, life.

    Hello world, my name is Carla Elliott, and I am a 45 yr, RA SPECIAL WARRIOR., thanks to research I am a functioning mother, lover, friend, motivator, innovator., who just met another WARRIOR LIKE ME .


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    Melissa Plagge
    Posted at 15:02h, 03 September Reply

    Dear David,

    Your story is very inspiring. To have gone through that many major surgeries and to have your courage and your optimistic attitude is very inspiring.

    I was diagnosed when I was nine. I am now 36. I’ve had eight total surgeries but no replacements, knock on wood. Three of these eight were major neck operations. As you know the disease is driven within or by synovial fluid. Our cervical spine has synovial fluid. When we MRI’d my neck it revealed extensive damage to the atlatislaxial ligament (not sure if that’s how your spell it of if that’s even the right name for it). However this meant that at anytime I could have became paralyzed from this awful disease. Now my spine is fused from the top down to about T5. I also had a fusion done on a bunion and also my left mid-foot to help with pain.
    It’s unfortunate that we go through years of trying different medications, physical therapy, and injections to discover nothing worked as well as we wish it would have. So then here we are faced with the option of surgery which is great and for me have been successful with regard to relieving pain. However, if you are like me, I always feel it a burdon to my co-workers, family, and friends. Some times I even feel selfish because I put myself first because I want so badly to feel good. I know my husband says he doesn’t mind, but him and my parents I am sure get exhausted running me back and forth to appointments and also caring for me at home.
    I too suffer from depression. However I am very in tune with myself and when I am feeling blue. I call the doctor and see if there are other options because I know when I am happier I am able to stay more optimistic and am more motivated to get going in the morning.
    I too like you had no one to talk to that could truly relate to me. However for the most part I feel my friends were very empathetic towards me. In high school one of my neighbor friends even asked me to join the gym with her. That was probably the best thing that happened to me in high school. I was in ninth grade and ended up making more friends because of it.
    I started off with Gold treatment. Have you heard of that one? I bet you too have tried it. Not many people have heard of it. I have gone through many different treatments and the doctor still says we have options. This is because they now have combination therapy (two meds) and I most recently had tried three medications. Unfortunately we discover the side effects to all the medications too on top of them suppressing our immune system. One example for me is that at the age of 33 I was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure which meant I can not have children of my own. This is okay thought because my husband has three wonderful kids who I very much love and they are so good to me as well. That’s just one example.
    This is a chronic, systemic disease that I don’t want anyone to have. I want one day of life where I can have a healthy body just to know what it’s like. But I cannot live my life thinking that way. I must be courageous and optimistic and happy to be alive. I also sometimes think that it could be worse saying I should be fortunate for what I can do and what I do have. The other thing that helps immensely is that I am very thankful for many things and many people in my life. I am most blessed for the doctors at Mayo Clinic and their continued excellent care they provide me. I have met many excellent doctors.
    I feel so sad for those going through these challenges and cannot afford or do not have access to healthcare. Some even just choose not to go to the doctor because of the expense. It’s unfortunate because this disease (when it’s bad like it has been for you and I) needs treatment the earliest possible and aggressively.
    Anyways, I am most appreciative of your willingness to share your story. My prayers are with you and your family. Keep up the good fight. I work in research (only one year with RA) but know they are making big advancements in the world of RA. One day, a miracle will happen. But until then, I will strive to keep up the fight most optimistically like you. You are very inspiring.

    Melissa Plagge
    Kasson, MN

  • Avatar
    Posted at 16:05h, 05 September Reply

    Thanks for the inspirational posts! I am, however, still left wondering about those who have been on aggressive treatments like my daughter, since age 2 (now 11)……. Afraid daily of the side effects and “rare” things that can happen…… After years of these strong Meds……. Remicade IVs and Methotrexate shots every week for 9 years….. Chronic uveitis…… Always wondering what if— what if we didn’t take the medicine road….?

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    Posted at 07:37h, 14 September Reply

    Wow, your story is so similiar to mine.I I was diagnosed at 1 !/2, ive the first time i had to become wheelchair bound/ use of scooter was at the age of 17. The struggle of in and out walking or not has been at times depressing but somehow ive stayed positive. To this date ive tried several meds,injections (including synvisc and cortosteriod , 10 joint replacement surgeries, and its still a struggle to deal at times . Reading your story was so inspiring to me. Dont ever give up, Wish there was a way for me to tell my story more, im currently working on my auto biography though.

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    Posted at 15:37h, 25 August Reply

    Your story is so inspiring! Wishing you the best ahead and continue with the positive spirit.

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