Arthritis in young adults
As we learnt in the Winter 2015 issue of Mediclinic Family, inflammatory arthritis types – such as rheumatoid – can strike even in children. We spoke to Grade 12 student Chané Kleynhans about growing up with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.
How old were you when you were diagnosed?
Shortly before my fourth birthday I was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.
How is your arthritis being treated?
I have been using Enbrel [a medication used to treat rheumatoid arthritis] for the past nine years. It is an injection I give myself once a week and it has worked wonders – it’s drastically improved my quality of life. I use Enbrel in combination with methotrexate [a commonly used medicine in the treatment of arthritis] and folic acid.
How has arthritis affected your day-to-day life?
Before I started using Enbrel I struggled with many things people do easily every day – like putting on socks or brushing my hair. Since I started using Enbrel I have become more independent. I can’t stand for hours on end, but it isn’t something I have to do on a regular basis so it isn’t really a problem.
What career aspirations do you have? Do you have plans to study further?
I’m currently in the process of applying to universities with the hope of becoming an industrial engineer.
How has arthritis affected your career choices?
I have seriously considered becoming a surgeon since primary school but I just don’t think I’d be able to take the hours of standing required, so I decided I wanted to become an industrial engineer. Basically, all careers involving strenuous activity are off the table for me.
Do you play any sports?
I don’t play sports because I can’t do any activities that will damage my joints in the long run. I enjoy swimming but I do it as a hobby, not as a competitive sport.
How do people react when they find out you have arthritis?
If a person on the street walked past me they wouldn’t really know there’s anything wrong with me, because the only symptom of the arthritis one can see is the fact that I ‘waddle’ slightly. So most people are quite shocked when they hear I have arthritis. Usually the shock is followed by pity, but I set them straight right away. If I don’t act like I need any special treatment, it eventually slips people’s minds that there is anything different about me.