Joint pain, stiffness, limping, warm and swollen joints; these are all symptoms of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: “Juvenile arthritis affects children of all ages and ethnic backgrounds. About 294,000 American children under age 18 have arthritis.”
BT junior Bella Sorensen is one of those 294,000 children fighting this disease. She has gone through obstacles but has pushed her way through so she can create a change for those children battling the same war.
Bella, a healthy thirteen-year old and a ranked tennis player who also played club volleyball, was thrown a curve ball when she started to get symptoms of arthritis. She was constantly in an immense amount of pain that soon began to affect her school life, school work, and her athletic abilities. She remembers many days spent in bed, not because she didn’t want to get up, but because the pain was so bad she was not able to get up.
Bella went to many doctors and underwent numerous tests before being diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, or JRA. “I was beyond confused because prior to my diagnosis I had been under the realization that it was only elders that got arthritis. Why me? Why now?” she said. Almost instantly, she began taking painful shots every week. Her immune system was low which made her constantly fatigued. All the pain began to affect her emotionally. “It was a very hard time, emotionally, for me.”
Through all the trials and tribulations, Bella realized that she could not let JRA control her emotions and her life. “With the support, love, and guidance of my family, close friends, and most importantly God, I got through the hardest time in my life with my head held high,” she said.
Three years have passed since Bella was diagnosed and she is now ready to give back. “I want to raise awareness of this illness that affects so many people,” she said.
She started a foundation called Bella Blue, where she hopes to help other children and teens who have JRA and answer questions they may have and support them through their difficult times. As a part of her foundation, she also has a jewelry business called Bella Blue Jewelry. All the necklaces, bracelets, and key rings are made with blue freshwater pearls handmade by Danish designer Mikkeline Hichs. All the proceeds are donated to JRA research.
Through her ambassadorship at the Arthritis Foundation, Bella heard about Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis put on by the Arthritis Foundation. This run/walk is put on in numerous cities throughout the United States and it is coming to Atlanta on December 13. Bella decided to make a team in honor of Bella Blue and is excited to get her family members and friends involved in the fight to cure arthritis.
Though this fight with arthritis has been hard for Bella, she has overcome it by becoming a light in the community. Through Bella Blue, she is helping so many children and teens with their battles. “I want to raise awareness of this illness that affects so many people. We all want a cure, and by supporting Bella Blue you will be a part of trying to find a cure,” she said.