Michelle's story – JIA
Michelle has lived most of her life with arthritis. At the age of eight, she was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis, meaning she'd suffer stiff, swollen joints and pain on a daily basis.
The 28-year-old from Sunderland was determined not to let the condition get in the way; she made her way through college and enrolled at Sunderland University where she graduated with a 2:1 degree in public relations.
Michelle says, 'Having arthritis as a teenager was challenging, especially dealing with the debilitating side-effects of the drug treatments. But generally people were supportive.
'It’s important that people are aware that young people are affected by arthritis and live with pain and disability every day. Lack of awareness of the condition, means that young people are often judged as having an old person’s disease which can often lead to misunderstandings about the condition.'
Growing up with arthritis
Michelle has tried various types of medications over the years. She has experienced allergic reactions, sickness, seizures and hair loss.
'Having arthritis can make your teenage years a very lonely time. Even though people can't necessarily see that a young person has arthritis, it doesn't mean that they aren't in pain underneath.
'Your teenage years are hard enough without having a condition that makes you different from your friends. That’s why I’m supporting Arthritis Research UK to raise awareness of the 15,000 young people with arthritis in the UK who are living with increasing pain and disability,' Michelle adds.'Having arthritis can make your teenage years a very lonely time.'
Michelle is due to have her right hip replaced next year, which will be her third hip replacement since the age of 17. Both of her previous operations have been successful.
Michelle says, 'Despite not knowing which joint may be affected from one day, hour or minute to the next, I’ve a lot to be thankful for. I have a wonderful boyfriend and great network of understanding family and friends around me.'