Arthritis a scourge for the young, too
Invercargill woman Lisa Kennard thought only older people got arthritis, until she was diagnosed with it at 18.
"There weren't a lot of people out there in my age bracket who had it, so I couldn't really relate to it," she said.
Arthritis affects 530,000 New Zealanders, making it the country's leading cause of disability.
Arthritis New Zealand marked the disease's annual awareness week last week by appealing to the public for donations.
Arthritis New Zealand said more than 1000 people under 18 lived with the disease in New Zealand. There was no cure and it could affect anyone at any age at any time.
Ms Kennard said there were days when she wondered "why me?". She had learned her life was not going to be as she had imagined.
"I would see other people doing things, and sometimes I pushed myself just that bit too far," she said.
"Stubbornness usually comes back to bite you."
She said when she was younger, people's comments affected her.
"People would ask me why I couldn't do certain things. They couldn't see my disability so they couldn't relate to it."
Almost 20 years after being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, Ms Kennard now co-ordinates the Arthritis Peer Support Network in Invercargill.
She encouraged others living with the disease to be positive. "Take care of yourself and know your limits. You really just need to look on the positive."
Arthritis New Zealand receives 12 per cent of its funding from government agencies but largely relies on the generosity of donors and volunteers.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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