As a patient, I am grateful to say that my journey with juvenile arthritis can be described as a best-case scenario, but when I was diagnosed at the age of 14, I was terrified that I would not be able to lead a typical teenage life.

In the early stages of being diagnosed with arthritis, my family, teachers and I made adjustments to adapt to my disease. The symptoms would vary from day to day and were hard to predict, but I had a second set of textbooks sent home to limit carrying them. Sometimes I had to ask my family and friends for help to do simple tasks like open a water bottle.

Fortunately, my symptoms were successfully managed, which I credit to a specialized treatment and pain management plan advised by my rheumatologists and healthcare professionals. Thanks to early diagnosis and easy access to treatment, I am able to continue doing the things I enjoy. I no longer suffer from daily flares and am able to regularly workout and live normally.

Mine may be a success story, but in reality, I know the majority of people impacted by rheumatic disease might not be as fortunate. That, in part, may be because lack of public understanding about rheumatic diseases and symptoms can make it difficult for other patients to get properly diagnosed and treated.

I recognize that my outcome may not yet be typical for those diagnosed with a rheumatic disease, but I hope that my story can serve as an example of why the public needs to be educated and informed on the differing impact rheumatic diseases can have on patients – invisible or not. There is so much more to learn about rheumatic diseases, and I encourage other patients to share their story this month so our wonderful community can grow closer together!

Inspired by Chandler’s story? Please consider sharing his video on social media using #RDAM or take a moment to to tell us your story to help raise broader awareness of arthritis and other rheumatic diseases.