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Abigail does not remember noticing when a book had somehow become too hard to hold, or when grasping a pencil sapped her energy, when a day was too much to handle or a walk too tiresome. By mid-fourth grade however, it became apparent that something wasn’t quite right. A stark comparison to the happy ten year old she had been, Abby trudged on head held high until one day, a confrontation with a wiffleball left her with a broken pinky and her parents with unexpected insight into the source of her exhaustion.
At age 12, Abigail was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis after a long illness, fatigue and when pain began to spread throughout both of her hands. Arthritis was a word she neither knew the meaning nor the implications, but the sudden serious tone that fell over the exam room told her there was no special medicine to fix it. From then forward while there were ups and downs, pain was Abby’s constant companion. Life became a whirlwind of pills, pillows and treatments, all promising relief but delivering mediocre success. As the years passed, Abby gained greater understanding of the nature of arthritis. She learned how to manage despite missing over three quarters of her middle school years. “At least I still know the quadratic equation,” Abby quips.
Today at age 17, Abby feels stronger than ever, maybe not physically but armed with the knowledge that her identity does not rest in a disease she did not ask for, but instead in the people who have continuously supported and loved her. Abby now views her experiences not as a drowning weight, but as an avenue to share and educate others. “Most importantly I now rest in the assurance that true strength is not something that can always be seen from the outside or calculated with numbers. Instead it is one's resilience that makes them truly remarkable.”