You can give the gift of hope any day.
Give the gift of research.
I know I look young. It’s something that I’ve been told all of my life. I have a youthful appearance. But when you look at my hands, they look like the hands of an elderly person, twisted and painfully gnarled with arthritis. I’m only 44, but I have the hands of an 85 year old.
I’m a young woman, trapped inside an old woman’s body.
My name is Tamara and I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis at six years of age. As a child living with a chronic disease, I didn’t have the easiest time of it, struggling to fit in and to be understood. More than anything I wanted to take part in gymnastics like my sister, but my joints couldn’t handle it and I was forced to watch life from the sidelines. I often wondered what my future would be like in a body that wasn’t constantly attacking itself from within.
Yet, despite the chronic pain and difficulties I’ve faced, I have an energy and enthusiasm for life that can’t be quelled. I’ve pursued my dreams passionately, working as a television reporter, radio host, writer and editor for 20 years, before becoming an entrepreneur, getting married, and giving birth in 2009 to our precious little boy Finn, now 7.
As you may know, there are more than 100 different types of arthritis, and mine manifests in all of my joints, resulting in pain, inflammation, damage, deformity and so far 13 arthritis related surgeries. Having Finn accelerated the pressure on my body. My joints have literally been worn out, leading to a hip replacement, shoulder replacement and multiple hands and feet surgeries. There are still many more surgeries in my future.
For me, living with arthritis is like a second full time job. From the surgeries, pre-op testing, rehabilitation, appointments and blood tests, it’s a job that I can never take time off from and it costs me dearly.
Yet, despite the searing pain and debilitating inflammatory attacks, I have seen so much progress thanks to arthritis research. The way that Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is treated today is like night and day from when I was first diagnosed as a child, and there are so many more options and medications available today that are transforming people’s lives.
As a passionate advocate, I readily share my story with anyone who will listen, because the only thing that will make a difference for someone like me, and the only way we can all move forward, is through research. Research holds the key to the promise of life. It is this promise that compels me to enthusiastically encourage those who I know and meet to support arthritis research. Particularly at this time of year when many of us consider our charitable gifts – as part of the giving season and for the benefit of a year-end tax receipt. Please make a special holiday gift to fund critical arthritis research today that will find new answers NOW to ease the burden of arthritis.
After having Finn, I was fortunate enough to become a patient of Dr. John Esdaile, one of the most eminent rheumatologists in the world and Scientific Director of Arthritis Research Canada. At the time, I was hesitant to take my arthritis medicines, because my arthritis doesn’t respond very well to meds and there are many scary side effects, such as an increased risk for cancer.
Dr. Esdaile helped me to understand, by not taking my medication, the inflammation would run rampant throughout my body and I would be at a much greater risk for a life-threatening complication, like a heart attack or stroke. He is the reason I’m on the medications now and it’s research like this, that donors like you help fund, that is changing the way arthritis is diagnosed and treated, giving new hope to the over 5.2 million Canadians now living with arthritis.
During this special time of year, when so many of us are celebrating the holidays with family, I can’t help but think about my fears for my own family’s future and at times it’s overwhelming. Yet, I’m an eternal optimist, always thirsty for new experiences and adventures that keep me going. I’m still here, learning and living, and knowing that I have to keep fighting. I have my family and my precious little boy counting on me.
Please help the millions of families like mine by giving the gift of hope this holiday season – give the gift of research. Make a special holiday gift to accelerate life changing and life-saving arthritis research today.
Tamara Komuniecki Arthritis Patient & Advocate