Shooting for the ‘Hole in One’ despite the challenges of having arthritis


Diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic arthritis (JIA) at six years of age, Sadiq Jiwa knew early on that he wasn’t going to be able to do all the same things he saw other kids doing. However, those limitations did not stop Sadiq from having a goal to push through the pain and disability of arthritis and pursue his dream to be a professional golfer.

Juvenile Idiopathic arthritis is the most common type of arthritis in children, affecting one in every 1,000 Canadian children under the age of 16. It causes chronic joint pain around the limbs, such as the hands, knees, ankles, and elbows, but it can also affect other areas of the body. JIA is an autoimmune disease, meaning it confuses the immune system and gets it to attack the body instead of germs and other viruses.

Growing up in Vancouver, the now 23-year-old immersed himself in sports. Cheered on by his dad, a big hockey fan, Sadiq played competitive hockey until the beginning of high school when he then realized he could no longer keep up with his teammates. “Because of my arthritis, it was much more difficult for me to take a check than it was for other players,” Sadiq explains.

Realizing he needed to change paths, Sadiq put down his hockey stick, and with the support of his mom and dad, moved on to ‘greener pastures.’ Golf became his new passion. “I basically fell in love with the game,” he shares. “I worked really hard, sometimes swinging at a golf ball for 12 hours a day.”

By grade 11, Sadiq had become captain of his high school golf team. From there he was recruited to play at Kenyon College, where he continued to try out for qualifier rounds and missed getting a spot at the USA Open by a single shot. It was then Sadiq realized that his golfing talent could actually take him somewhere, and so he set his sights on playing on the PGA tour.

It is a big dream for anyone wanting to pursue a professional golf career, but when you add overcoming the daily struggle of a chronic illness like arthritis, Sadiq knew he was in for a significantly bigger challenge.

“There were many occasions where I’ve had to withdraw from tournaments because the pain got to a point where I couldn’t take another swing and I had to stop,” Sadiq says. “One time my joints flared so badly that I lost complete mobility and had to be carried off the course by my dad and coach. I took a swing on the thirteenth hole and could not put any weight on my left foot, it completely gave out on me and I couldn’t walk,” he continues.

Today, Sadiq relies on a physiotherapist and rheumatologist to help him cope with the pain, and provide a personalized treatment plan that allows him to compete at the highest level.

As well, he’s begun volunteering with Arthritis Research Canada’s Patient Advisory Board. It’s another way to acquire more information about his disease and contribute to research that is focused on prevention, better treatment, and improved quality of life. “I love the fact that Arthritis Research Canada is really patient oriented,” Sadiq says. “Having the opportunity to work directly with researchers, to share our perspectives as patients, and have input into how

the research is conducted is incredible. I know that through this partnership we are getting answers to the questions that matter most.”

“I found a way to get ahead of my condition, so a part of me giving back is just to let people know that ‘hey there is a way around this’ and if I can, I want to help someone else out there get to the same place that I am,” Sadiq concludes.

Arthritis Research Canada has assembled a team of world class scientific researchers, representing a diverse set of disciplines and expertise. Most recently the organization welcomed Dr. Susanne Benseler to the Alberta research team. Dr. Benseler is the University of Calgary’s Head of Paediatric Rheumatology and the Director of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute. She is Canada’s preeminent clinical epidemiologist for childhood arthritis and is Arthritis Research Canada’s first scientist specializing in childhood arthritis.

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