If having Crohn’s disease wasn’t fun enough … a few of us get to experience the joys of early onset arthritis.
That’s right. We hit the jackpot. Not only are our guts inflamed, but our joints are, too. Whoopty freakin’ do!
Here’s the situation: One of the extra-intestinal effects of Crohn’s disease is often a mild case of arthritis. The inflammation in the intestine has a similar affect on the joints. I personally show signs of Peripheral arthritis, meaning some of my larger joints – ankles, knees and elbows – experience pain and swelling. I first starting showing signs at 9 years old.
I know some people joke about being an 20-something grandma. But trust me, I’m pretty sure I am one.
So what does this mean for my everyday life? Mostly, I go throughout the day without noticing too much. My joints creak here and there, especially when it’s cold. But then there are days when I can barely walk downstairs without feeling pain. If I sit too long, my hips and knees start to lock up. My ankles start to hurt when I’m jogging. It becomes a total systems shout down on my normally active life.
How do you cope? First of all, you have too. You really don’t have much of a choice. That is one of the biggest things I have learned living with Crohn’s Disease – You are only as weak (or as strong) as you let yourself be. A positive attitude and an unwillingness to let anything hold you back is truly the best medicine.
But of course, this real life problem had to have some sort of cure. I remember when I first experienced these symptoms at the age of nine, I would break down crying at cheerleading practice out of pain. Yes, cheerleading is my favorite sport (yes, a sport) and I was determined to not let Crohn’s disease slow me down.
I worked with my doctors to develop joint strengthening exercises to help reduce the pain. I took supplements to help ease the swelling. Most importantly, I tried my best to keep myself healthy. I found that the more I managed my intestinal symptoms for Crohn’s Disease, the better I felt as a whole.
I am happy to say that 9-year-old stayed with cheerleading. All the way through college in fact (Go Xavier!). So, yes. I may be sick. I may even be an old grandma. But I will never be one to let this disease slow me down.