Seventeen-year-old Chuchu Jiang does not let her medical condition deter her from living her life; she is currently studying at UBC to become a pharmacist.
When Chuchu was 11, she began complaining of pain in her elbows and knees so severe that she couldn’t sleep. Her parents took her to BC Children’s Hospital immediately, where she was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis, the most common form of childhood arthritis that affects two out of every 1,000 children.
“At the hospital, they explained it would be forever, that it wouldn’t be like the flu and go away,” says Chuchu. She says her diagnosis made her sad, and the prednisone used to alleviate her pain caused her to gain weight, which made her self-conscious.
Doctors at BCCH, such as Dr. Lori Tucker, one of four principle investigators studying the impact or the disease on patients nationwide, are trying to research how to avoid missed diagnosis because early treatment is essential in reducing the impact of the disease.
According to the research, 52 out of the 300 children surveyed had symptoms for more than a year before diagnosis and that is too long, says Dr. Tucker.
Rather than being ashamed of her illness, Chuchu encourages other kids to stay positive and not be embarrassed of having the disease. “It’s not just me alone in this shell of my disease,” she says. “It’s me and my family, friends, doctors and nurses. Everyone is trying to help me cope with it.”