There's a lot I don't know about the onset of my juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.
I know my knees turned red and swollen. I know I became easily fatigued, reluctant to get up in the morning. I know my grandpa - a GP - cried when he saw me and suspected JRA.
But that's about it. I was two at the time, so my memory of early symptoms and diagnosis is, for the most part, nonexistent. What I do know I have heard from my parents, relatives, and once, an old family friend who told me about the day years ago when she went in to see my grandpa in his office and he confided his suspicions.
So I don't know what I weighed (what does a two-year-old weigh?), or what I ate (though I'm assuming nobody was shoving potato chips down my throat) or how I spent my days (I liked My Little Ponies).
One of the goals of this year's World Arthritis Day is to break down the myth that people with autoimmune arthritis somehow brought the disease on themselves. I think I'm a pretty good example of how patently untrue this is. At the time of my diagnosis, I was barely myself yet. I wasn't overweight or sedentary or afflicted with an insatiable McDonald's addiction. I didn't have an unhealthy lifestyle. I hardly even had a lifestyle.
I have now had JRA for 26 years, and I know that autoimmune arthritis really can just happen. The belief that patients themselves are to blame is hurtful and unhelpful. Anyone, at any time, can develop arthritis, and misconceptions like these don't get us any closer to improved treatments. Blaming patients is a convenient way of shifting responsibility for the disease, of saying, "this won't happen to me." But it can, and it is happening to millions of people around the world.
What are your numbers? Post your weight at onset, age of onset and current age in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter (@IAAMovement). Help tell the truth about autoimmune arthritis.