Valerie Khomyak (17) was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis at the age of four. She’s currently in sixth year at school and studying for her Leaving Certificate.
The symptoms that she experiences on a day-to-day basis include fatigue stiffness, joint pain and a lack of energy.
What keeps Valerie going is spending time to understand her chronic illness and its limitations, and particularly accepting it as part of her life and understanding the challenges she faces as a result of her arthritis. Planning her life, dreaming about it all and looking forward to everything that she wants to achieve, Valerie says, has made it easier to cope and live with the disease.
Support from the people closest to her has been one of the main things that have made this journey smoother, which is why Valerie’s really driven to try her best and support children and young people going through life with juvenile arthritis. Valerie says that she wants to advocate for those who have a chronic invisible illness and make sure that all of those children and young people, like herself, are supported.
‘Living with arthritis for most of my life has made me really change my outlook on life and health,’ Valerie says. ‘Although we take our bodies for granted, appreciating being healthy and not having problems moving around and being active is one of the greatest gifts in life. I really appreciate it no matter how tough it may get at times; you only grow stronger with every obstacle you face. We have to be proud of the things we are able to do, because only we truly understand the strength that it took to do them.’