A Farmington Hills teen is this year’s youth honoree for the Arthritis Foundation’s Jingle Bell Run, a December 3 event that will raise funds and awareness.
Meghan Burba, 13, was just a toddler when she began complaining to her parents about pain in her knees and ankles. For a while, everyone thought it was just a normal part of being an active kid.
After Meghan began waking up in the middle of the night crying in pain, her mom, Kerri, who has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA), suspected it was something more serious. Meghan was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) when she was only five years old. As long as she can remember, joint pain has been part of her life.
“Growing up with JRA, I had a pretty good idea what the future may hold for her,” said Kerri. “My mind immediately went to a future full of frequent doctor appointments, pain and disability. I thought of my years of needing a wheelchair, shots in her joints, years of chemotherapy that left me sick and vulnerable to infections, and in recent years, struggles with infertility.”
With treatment, Meghan continues to be active. She participates in gym class at school, attends church, plays softball and volleyball, and participate in dance. Her knees, ankles and wrists still hurt on occasion, but she accepts that this is what living with arthritis will be like.
“Being my age, pressure from my peers to be ‘normal’ is hard for me,” said Meghan. “I know I have limits that others do not have. However, I am very fortunate to be active and participate in lots of activities with my friends and family.” Meghan doesn’t know what the future holds for her, but with advances in technology, her faith and help from the Arthritis Foundation, she’s optimistic and looking forward to what comes next.
“We know we’re not alone in this fight,” said Kerri. “We will make it!”
Jingle Bell Run participants are invited to wear a holiday-themed costume, tie jingle bells to their shoelaces, or show off an ugly Christmas sweater for the 5- or 10-kilomenter walk/run at Campus Martius in Detroit. Learn more at jbr.org.