Natasha Trehan | Kids Also Have Arthritis
“After my diagnosis, I went through a hard time in my life,” she remembers. “In grade 8, you think arthritis is only for old people, but kids get it too. My biggest concern immediately after hearing my diagnosis was whether I could still do my school work which may seem odd for a 13-year-old, but for me, this meant I couldn’t be like everyone else.”
Becoming a Patient Partner and Getting Involved in Research
For the first couple of years after her diagnosis, Natasha didn’t want to learn about her arthritis. She believed it was her parents’ responsibility, but now she sees it quite differently.
“At the end of the day, you are the one who is living with the disease, so you need to understand what is going on with your body,” she reflects.
Natasha became interested in learning more about arthritis and research when she was 16. After participating in different research teams, she joined Arthritis Research Canada’s Arthritis Patient Advisory Board (APAB) in 2020 when she was 18 and is the board’s youngest member.
“When you are a patient partner, you represent people living with arthritis. This can be intimidating at first, but ever since I got involved in research, I realized that the scientists are accommodating and really care about your opinion,” she says. “You realize your voice matters, it’s heard and you end up feeling really empowered because by speaking up you are making a difference.”
Something Natasha values from her experience as a member of APAB is that she gained mentors and built great relationships with other patient partners. The shared experiences helped her understand her symptoms and have a strong network, she can call or email whenever she needs to.
“I’m currently part of the ACCESS research project that focuses on equity in arthritis research,” she says. “This is important to me not only because I’ll be able to give my perspective as someone diagnosed with JIA, but also as a woman of colour.”
A Life She Never Imagined
“Arthritis really helped shape what I want to do career-wise,” Natasha says. “Growing up, I thought I would be a French teacher or a vocal teacher, I never imagined that I would want to go into medicine, science or research.”
Today, she is not only studying at University and participating in different research teams, she has also created her own podcast, community and platform called “Take a Pain Check” where she offers valuable information and support to youth living with arthritis.
“Sometimes I think my arthritis diagnosis was for a reason,” she reflects. “It allowed me to meet so many people, make friends and help raise awareness to make a meaningful change.”
When asked if there was one specific message she would like to share during Arthritis Awareness month, Natasha doesn’t hesitate in saying, “Kids also have arthritis, and an arthritis diagnosis at a young age can be overwhelming at first. But as you learn about your disease, there is a lot you can do to manage your pain and live better. Research plays a big part in that.”