Gianna is an awe-inspiring 5 1/2-year-old with juvenile arthritis. Since September 2017, she has experienced pain in her right wrist, right foot, and both knees. There are times that the pain is so intense that she is unable to perform daily tasks such as getting out of bed, getting dressed or attending school.
This vibrant girl has been under the care of a pediatric rheumatologist in Charlotte, NC to manage her pain. The family was relieved to find a doctor they all love, especially Gianna. However, between the distance, never-ending traffic and juggling other family members schedules, getting to and from appointments can be challenging. Gianna and her doctor are still in the process of finding the right drug protocol for her treatment plan.
With the help of her parents, Gianna remains hopeful to be pain free. She is reminded to stay positive and remember that she has the disease and that she isn't the disease. Gianna and her parents hope that they can raise awareness and raise funds for more testing to find a cure for this debilitating disease.
Kathryn Rand more known to others as “Kat” has battled the effects of rheumatoid arthritis for years. At 10 years old she recalls having severe back pains. Fast forward to high school when she started having shoulder pain while playing golf which has been her love since age 6. She was very discouraged as MRI imaging just suggested severe inflammation and she continually received multiple cortisone injections to get through high school. At 17 years old, she began to have pain in many other joints and fluid accumulation in her body, especially her feet, knees, and elbows. Finally, after many cortisone shots and imaging she was referred to a rheumatologist.
At age 19, after years of trying to figure out what was going on Kat was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. She continually had fluid removed from her joints, many steroid injections and tried every medicine along the chain starting with the familiar disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), progressing to self-injections, and then last resort infusions that have given her the most relief.
Kat figured out through trial and errors that exercise helped tremendously to lubricate her joints, especially swimming. That is when she took an interest in physical therapy and pursued Wingate University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program. Kat hopes to work as a PT for kids and young adults with RA to help with pain management while being able to relate to them through their journey.
Today, Kat continues to receive injections and is very thankful for her support system of family and friends. She is grateful for her experience as she claims God has a purpose for everything and He does not put you through anything you cannot handle! No matter what you are going through Kat states that “it can always be used for good and to help others”!
At 17, Jamila Perry Harley, M.Ed CCC-SLP was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis; she has been an #arthritiswarrior for 27 years. Jamila began to have pain in her feet and wrists as well as swelling in her fingers. It took several doctor visits and being told she was “too young for arthritis” before she was diagnosed. Thanks to her mother being a strong advocate, Jamila finally received the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. Following the diagnosis, she underwent many different treatment options. She struggled emotionally and physically and almost didn’t graduate high school. With the support of her mother she did graduate and began college. However, Jamila was unable to manage the new environment, chronic illness and the normal challenges of entering young adulthood; she ended up withdrawing from college. For a period of eight years, she struggled with the pain and began to see the devastating effects.
In 2000, she would require her first joint surgery; a wrist fusion. The following year, Jamila was introduced to a new biologic drug. While a great deal of damage was done already, the new drug slowed everything down and gave her new life. Jamila returned to college and earned her Bachelor of Arts in Communications at UNC Chapel Hill and a Master of Education in Communication Sciences & Disorders, graduating with Magna Cum Laude distinction from North Carolina Central University. She began her career as a speech-language pathologist.
In 2013 she required a right total hip replacement at age 39, followed by a left total hip replacement at age 40. Following these surgeries, she completed her first 5K and completed three more over the next several years.
Jamila lives in Charlotte, NC with her supportive husband Samuel. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, volunteering, traveling, and sharing her experiences of living with RA on her blog RheumMates. Jamila hopes to be an advocate for her fellow #Rheumies and inspire them to never give up!