Thursday, March 1, 2018

Overcoming Adversity and Reclaiming Life - A Teen with Juvenile Arthritis

The following was written by Savannah Nelson for a class at school.
A glimpse inside the life of a teen with Juvenile Arthritis.

The Photograph

In my room, I have a picture of my seventh grade JV soccer team in a huddle. For most where that photo might just represent past memories, for me, it symbolizes reclaiming my future. When I was in second grade, soccer was my life. My days were spent at camps, games, practices, and trying to simulate the lives of my favorite players. Everything I did was connected to the sport, and I lived for the rush of stealing the other team's ball and ensuring it made its way into the goal. The only problem was the opponent wasn’t my only adversary, but also my own body. All my life, I had struggled with extreme pain in my fingers, and as time went on, the agony had spread to my feet. As the seasons rolled through, the pain progressed, but so did my passion. It got to the point where my father had to carry me off the field after games due to the extreme pain in my feet. Even then, I never missed a practice. 
My joints caved on me the following season, and I was forced to give up the sport I loved. I was diagnosed with Juvenile Psoriatic Arthritis and Spondyloarthritis a few months later. From there, I fell into a state of self-pity, and my own thoughts imprisoned me. Many years, medications, and infusions later, I slowly made progress, both physically and mentally. My seventh grade year, I had put myself back together enough to work up the courage to try out for the soccer team. This wasn’t only a choice to join a sport, but a decision to break the shackles that held me to my past. I practiced everyday after school for weeks leading up to the tryouts, and when the roster was posted…there was my name listed…I had made it!  I will never forget the weight that had burdened me for so long being lifted. After that season, I learned that soccer just wasn’t my love anymore, but even so, it gave me something in a way nothing else could: my life back.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Weather Conditions…Dealing with the pain.

The weather.  Freezing cold, then warmer, then a drop in pressure, storms coming accompanied with a cold front….the weather conditions can be murderous on someone with arthritis!  However, if you are a teenager with arthritis, you have to walk to classes, take numerous notes in class, participate in sports….be a teenager!  These tasks, that should be so simple, can be near impossible because of painful joints.  Savannah had a hard time just standing in the kitchen this morning before school.  She took her arthritis prescription medicine and Aleve…but she needs more!  She just texted me asking what more she could do for the pain.  My answer, we will pray harder!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Juvenile Arthritis - Finish the Race!

Living as a teen with arthritis is kind of like Savannah's swim meet yesterday…some days you get rained on.  After a fifteen minute delay as the rain poured in Mobile, AL, the meet continued…and Savannah got her best personal times ever!

Much of Savannah's success is due to the people whom cheer her on everyday…Jenna, Sarah, Lauren, Garrett, and Nolan to name just a few. These two guys came straight from a college exam to cheer Savannah on…we love you Cody and Kyle!  To everyone who reads this blog, the power of an encouraging word to those struggling can mean the difference of finishing a race…and finishing it strong!!

It was just five years ago Savannah could hardly walk, let alone run.  She competed in a one mile run…and it took everything in her to finish that race…but her friend Hope cheered her on that day, and even ran across the finish line with her….reminding her she can overcome her challenges.

This weekend, Savannah will attempt her first 5K without assistance (i.e. wheelchair).  Savannah may not have the best time on the clock at the end of the race, but finishing will be her goal.  Mornings are hard for most anyone with arthritis (joints are very stiff), so the 7am start time with be a challenge within itself.  However, with friends encouraging her…she has the courage to try.  As her friends run, part of Savannah's spirit will be with them wishing she was running beside them.  However,  Savannah plans to walk…and she hopes to walk for all the Juvenile Arthritis kids who cannot walk because of the pain within them.  Don't give up, because even though there are rainy days on this journey, the sunshine will come again.  Meanwhile, Savannah will walk for you.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

JIA: Sometimes All You need is Someone to Cheer You On!

2017 swim season has officially begun!  This is going to be a short, but sweet post.  Savannah's arthritis has still yet to ever go in remission, but it is manageable with prayer, sulfasalazine, and friends cheering you on!  Life with JIA is definitely a roller coaster, but today was a very good day!!  Also, Savannah got her best personal time ever in 50 freestyle!!  She also finished strong in breaststroke.
Precious friend cheering Savannah on during breaststroke.

Some of the female swimmers at PCA …so blessed!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Her Joints Were Not Made to Walk Large College Campuses...but, God is Writing Savannah's Story

Savannah is in Science Olympiad at know where a bunch of kids get together and make and learn great science stuff! (Oh, forgive me science teacher for this pitiful description).  Anyways, her school made it to state this year where she and her teammates competed with 14 other schools from Alabama at Auburn University.  AUBURN...a beautiful university campus and one my daughter has dreamed of possibly attending for many, many years...well, until yesterday.  After walking all over campus for her different events, Savannah's joints were screaming in pain!  Her joints are just not made to walk great distances all day long, especially when she is in a flare.  But God is telling this girl's story, and where a door closes, another one will open.  We believe a smaller college campus is in this girl's future.  So, if any other Juvenile Arthritis families have any advice on attending a small school campus verses a big school campus, please comment below.  We can all learn from each other.  Also, everyone who is reading this, thank you for taking this journey with us.

Everybody, come take my hand.
We'll walk this road, together, through the storms, 
Whatever weather, cold or warm.
Just letting you know,
that you are not alone.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

It's Back!! Arthritis has returned, but she pushes forward.

It started with pain in her knee.  Then pain in her ankles.  Then she had trouble writing.  We knew the signs, but you just want to pretend it is not there.  The pain never really left, but it had become manageable.  Now, to write three sentences is a challenge.  She is in athletics 7th period because she is on the School Swim Team first semester.  Swim= Awesome for joints! Running stadium steps second semester to "stay in shape"= totally horrible for someone with active arthritis in her knees and ankles.  Yet, she refuses to give up because she doesn't want to be seen as different.  Can anyone else relate??  Love this girl.  If you can relate, know you are not alone.  Savannah is walking this path with you...and some days the walk is awfully hard. She still pushes forward, though...because she chooses to.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

JIA Families...A New Beginning

Dear JIA families,

I have shared on this blog the good and the bad with Savannah's journey with arthritis.  Savannah has seen two years of monthly infusions, jaw injections twice, years of daily medicine, being in a wheelchair because of severe pain, weekly shots, sleepless get the picture.  But now, we want to share the good from it all.  Savannah is compassionate, a fighter, looks for the positive, courageous, and more well rounded because of her arthritis journey.  And now, she is also a child of Christ.  We want to share this joy with our readers because this blog is not only about a child's arthritis journey, but the blessings in spite of it.  Savannah became a Christian Oct. 6, 2016 through faith and obedience.  To God be the glory!!!

Savannah being baptized by her Papa.