Arthritis isn't just an old person’s disease
At just 28 years old and engaged to be married in the next two months, Sarah Minton is in the prime of her life. So it’s no wonder the fit North Vancouver social worker gets weird looks when asking for someone else’s seat on the bus.
Overcoming others’ disbelief in her disability was one of the last hurdles she, like hundreds of thousands of young Canadians, had to left to climb after coming to terms with it herself.
“Many don’t feel disabled enough,” Minton tells The Outlook in a Lonsdale Avenue coffee shop. “Because arthritis is invisible, you don’t accept it.”
But the fact is arthritis affects more than four million Canadians aged “two to 92” and is expected to grow by three million new diagnoses over the next 20 years, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
It’s fitting then that the Arthritis Society chose September’s back-to-school season for Arthritis Awareness Month.
“One of the biggest myths out there is that this is an ‘old person’s’ disease,” said Arthritis Society spokeswoman Joan Vyner in a press release last week. “The fact is that arthritis is one of the leading causes of disability in Canada.”
For Minton, the stress of going back to school and the painfully repetitive motions of note-taking in class fueled her illness, she recalled.
“It’s a rough time to have arthritis but there are resources out there.”
The problem for most is building up the courage and the know-how to access them.
“Many people don’t feel disabled enough to use the disability centre at the university,” Minton said. “That arthritis was a disability took me a while to get my head around. But once I did, it made a world of difference for the rest of university.”
Minton now organizes monthly meet-ups for young arthritis sufferers in Vancouver where they discuss day-to-day challenges like riding a transit bus or going to work and ways to overcome them.
More than a quarter of all Canadians with arthritis between the ages of 25 and 44 don’t work because of the disease, costing the Canadian economy more than $33 billion in health-care costs and lost work days every year, according to the Arthritis Society.
“If we don’t get people to pay attention, the problem is going to get far worse.” said Vyner. “We have to educate people about the disease.”
The Lions Gate Hospital is partnering with the Arthritis Society to host a free public forum discussing the disease from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 6 in the Lions Gate Hospital gym. Register by calling 604-714-5550.