Jacob was the picture of health. Until he wasn’t.
In August 2017, I was just 19 years of age. A young, fit, athletic hockey player. I was training and getting ready for the upcoming hockey season, when I noticed a pain in my back, especially on the right side. I stopped playing for a few days and iced it. But then I had to leave Vancouver to go to Manitoba to play for the Winkler Flyers.
The pain persisted, but I felt like I could play through it. I had sacrificed a lot to make the team and I didn’t want to lose my spot.
Despite my seeing a sports doctor, a physiotherapist, a chiropractor and an acupuncturist – the pain continued to worsen.
I tried everything to reduce the pain. But within a couple of months I could barely walk. And in the morning, it hurt to get out of bed. The pain never subsided. By February, I couldn’t play hockey anymore. I had played three games, three nights in a row and after the last game, I needed to be helped into the car.
Not sure that I would ever be able to play hockey again, I returned home to Vancouver, where my sports doctor ordered x-rays which came back normal. However, an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan showed I had significant inflammation in my back. I was immediately referred to a rheumatologist for further diagnosis and treatment.
I am not going to let arthritis limit or define me.
The rheumatologist confirmed what had been suspected. I was diagnosed with x-ray negative inflammatory arthritis of the spine or spondyloarthritis. It is a newly recognized form of ankylosing spondylitis. After trying several different kinds of pills without a response, I was able to join a research study for a new, powerful injectable biologic drug.
After my rheumatologist appointment and being shown how to inject the medication on my own, I left his office and sat in my car, nervous and sweating. I even started to cry. I didn’t know if I’d ever get my life back. Fortunately, the medication worked! Within two weeks, I noticed the pain had started to subside. And just one month later, I was back on the ice.
So soon after starting my treatment, I couldn’t believe the change. I could push off using my right leg without feeling a shooting pain down my leg. It was amazing! The best feeling ever! I was able to return to hockey the following season – and I played in over 50 games!
I thought I might never skate again. But here I am able to play at the level I was before.
Jacob is the perfect example of how your support is changing lives!
In the past, it often took several years for someone to be diagnosed with arthritis. But thanks to arthritis research and the new knowledge that is now available, Jacob was diagnosed relatively quickly. With new advances in treatment and medication, he was able to take part in a research study for a powerful new biologic medication that literally gave him back his life. A medication that was developed through research.
Arthritis Research Canada has shown the benefit of early diagnosis and aggressive intervention in helping to control arthritis, early on, and before permanent damage can occur.
We are grateful to Jacob for sharing his story with you and for knowing that by doing so he is creating important awareness about the need to support arthritis research. By speaking out, Jacob is hoping others like him will get the help they need to thrive.
Please help advance life-changing and life-saving arthritis research for millions of people like Jacob.
With sincere thanks,
John Esdaile, MD, MPH, FRCPC, FCAHS, MACR
Scientific Director, Arthritis Research Canada