Merel and Koen

By Laeta Morskate, Alberta, Canada, on her daughter Merel, 17, who was diagnosed at age 7 with oligoarticular JIA, and her son Koen, 15, who was recently diagnosed with polyarticular JIA

My biggest wish in life came true 17 years ago: I became a mom. Our family consists of me, my husband, our 17-year-old daughter and our 15-year-old son. We moved to Alberta, Canada, almost 11 years ago from The Netherlands.

My daughter has always been prone to infections: ear infections, tonsillitis, etc. Her first symptoms started at age 6 and she was diagnosed with oligoarticular juvenile arthritis (less than 4 joints affected at initial diagnoses). It took us about eight years to finally find a cocktail of drugs that worked for her. She is now in a medicated remission and for the first time in about 10 years, she is thriving. She has a difference in leg length, is underweight and has developed scoliosis.  

A little less than a year ago we discovered symptoms in my son as well, and he was diagnosed with polyarticular juvenile arthritis (more than 5 joints affected at initial diagnoses). We are in the midst of figuring out what works for him. He is on a drug cocktail of about 70 pills a week, Humira shots bi-weekly and he recently had corticosteroid injections in 11 joints. So far we have yet to find what works for him.

Being a mother and a bit of a control freak, it’s not easy to see your kids struggle, not being able to predict – and explain to your child – what is to come. I tried to be as open and honest about their conditions as I could, and as was age-appropriate. Not being able to tell my child, “It will be OK,” was probably the most heart-wrenching part of this whole ordeal to me.

People don’t realize, it may not be OK. Our kids can never turn this off or forget about it; it is their reality each day, every day. There is no cure. It is mentally and physically exhausting and the lack of awareness in their surroundings does not help.

I have always tried to emphasize that it is not all negative, though. This is your situation, it is what it is, and you may as well make the best of it. Both my children are extremely blessed with a team of marvelous professionals that take wonderful care of them. They are actively involved in their own treatment and are treated as the wonderful people they are – not a number or a file.

This disease is ugly but it also has helped shape my kids into the people they are today: caring, empathetic and wise beyond their years!

Visit Laeta's blog to read more about her life with two kids with JA.