Make The Jingle Bell Run Your Holiday 5k This Year
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Health and Wellness

Make The Jingle Bell Run Your Holiday 5k This Year

I'll be there with bells on - here's why.

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Make The Jingle Bell Run Your Holiday 5k This Year
Arthritis Foundation

Arthritis isn’t just for old people; I learned that the hard way when I was 14. Being a freshman girl in high school is awkward enough already, and getting a diagnosis like that definitely doesn’t help with body image. How was I supposed to love myself when I was being limited by swollen knees, by neck pains that woke me up if I turned my head in my sleep, by a left elbow that hurt so much I couldn’t completely straighten it anymore? I didn’t feel beautiful. I felt defective.

There’s no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, and the treatment options aren’t exactly pleasant. For most of high school, I was taking a medicine every weekend that would make me sick for a day or two – no energy, no appetite. But it was worth it, because during the week, I felt mostly normal, and I could hide it from my friends. I kept playing soccer and staying active in school. I probably seemed as healthy as can be. I didn’t want anyone to know about it because I didn’t want them to see me as weak.

Now I get shots in my legs or in my stomach every two weeks. They certainly don’t feel great – think a step above the pain of a steroid shot – but they’ve been more effective for me and don’t have the unpleasant side effects. (Plus my dad is really good at giving the shots, and cool Band-Aids make everything better.) One thing all the medicines have in common, though, is that they suppress the immune system. Arthritis is an autoimmune disease, so weakening the immune system helps by giving the body something to attack other than itself. I would probably catch anything that was going around if I didn’t make up for it with a pretty healthy lifestyle. Needing sleep doesn’t really do wonders for the college social life, but I’ve found friends who are okay with my odd routine.

It’s still not something I really talk about, so why come clean so publicly now? Because I'm registered for this year's Jingle Bell Run, which will be held in Audubon Park on December 17th. The nation’s largest holiday-themed 5k, the proceeds benefit arthritis research, and I want people to know just how important a cause that is. As my story shows, you may not even realize that someone you know struggles with autoimmune disease. We may not “look sick,” so we don’t tend to be vocal about it, but arthritis affects 53 million adults and 300,000 children in the United States. I’m honestly lucky; a lot of people with this disease have it much, much worse than I do. And unless we happen to go into remission, coping with it is pretty much a lifetime commitment – whether that means medication, dietary regimens, supplements, physical therapies, surgery, etc.

I’m not just writing this to tell people to do the Jingle Bell Run. It’s an event that’s close to my heart not only because it gives me hope for a cure, but also because finding a passion for fitness in college has helped me take back control of my body and redefine my self-image. Things like running and yoga have helped me stop seeing myself as “defective” and start seeing myself in terms of what I can do. I’m so thankful that I’m able to live such an active life, and I feel strong now. So I’m running this race for all the people who can’t, and I’m writing this because I want those 300,000 kids with Juvenile Arthritis to know that this disease does not make them weak, but that fighting it every day makes them strong.

Part of what makes living in New Orleans so special is the way this city can come together to rally behind a cause, and I can’t wait to see this race come to Uptown. Aside from its personal significance to me, it promises to be a fun, family event full of holiday spirit. So sign up and get your best elf, reindeer, or Santa suit ready. On top of helping the Arthritis Foundation, you’ll get a super cute long-sleeve t-shirt and have a great time. No matter your pace, everybody wins.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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