Below are excerpts from a blog posted on Teen Ink by Lexus Isabel, age 16, of Toledo, Ohio. Her submission about living with childhood arthritis is part of a national site that gives teens the chance to publish creative work and opinions on issues that affect their lives. Soon after it posted, her blog was in the #1 spot for memoirs.
Lexus has supported the Arthritis Foundation for several years, including participation in Walk to Cure Arthritis and Jingle Bell Run. She has also attended JA camps and done media interviews representing the juvenile arthritis community.
Dear Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis,
You are the term that has been engraved into my soul since birth. You are genetic and you manipulate my immune system to think there is something wrong with my joints. My immune system attacks me, causing inflammation and pain.
You’re a 7-year-old girl with an innocent face, wincing in pain. You are the smell of antiseptic as she enters the infinite number of hospitals and doctors’ offices. You taste like the toxic medication that chokes the girl twice a day. You feel like the piercing needles penetrating her skin, tears racing down her face, the constant, throbbing pain that stole away her innocence.
Most of all, you are the sounds you cause. You’re the “Mommy, it hurts,” as I scooch down the stairs because I can’t take the pain. You’re a mother screaming, “Tell me what’s wrong with my baby!” You’re the taunts of the children. You are me.
I want to thank you for this. If I was not bound to you, I would not be the person I am. I’ve become a compassionate, stubborn, determined young lady who wears her heart on her sleeve. I want to change the world. I want to help people and see the impact I make. I have this dream because of what you put me through. I don’t want others to be put through this, so I will be a person who guides them through their journey.
Yes, I am grateful to you, but I would never wish you upon someone else. You are genetic. You could have sprung upon one of my sisters. I would gladly balance this burden upon my shoulders for them.
You’ve taught me the importance of family. When you took hold of my life, everyone was scared, especially me. They hid their fear, took my little hands, and we stood against you as a family. When you were finally given a name, my grandmother, Mimmi, dove into research. My aunt helped me with my first injection of medication. My parents were probably hit the hardest by you. I’m so lucky to have them because they have been so supportive along the way.
I questioned my Mimmi about why God would do this to me. I snapped at her, “If God is so great, if he really does love me, then why would he do this to me?” She looked down and grabbed my hand. “Because he knows you are strong enough.” At the time I was just a little girl who had grown up too fast. Now I’m a strong young lady who is still a little scared of the future, but I know I am strong enough. These words have guided me through my life.
Then one day, I heard these words: “I think we can say you are in remission.” I let out a shaky breath and a laugh. My joy spilled out of my eyes. For the first time in years, I felt like I could breathe. I was floating. You were the burden that weighed me down but let me go and allowed me to fly. My parents’ smiles radiated in my direction as we realized all the things that seemed impossible could now be achieved. You are a battle that I will continue to fight because I will always be their little trooper.
You can read the entire blog on Teen Ink.