Estelle’s Story 

As a gymnast, Estelle thought her swollen feet would prevent her from competing. After months of tests, she was ready to give up. But an arthritis diagnosis and new treatment has her back on the mat. 

Estelle has always been on the go. She started gymnastics at 4 years old. By 9, she had become a competitive gymnast. When her right foot became swollen and she began to complain about soreness in her hands and feet, Estelle was sent to a pediatric orthopedist. While x-rays, MRIs and even casting didn’t stop the swelling, her doctors weren’t able to find the cause. Estelle could hardly walk. Her pediatrician ordered bloodwork and saw that Estelle’s rheumatoid factor was five times above the normal limit. 

Estelle waited several months for an appointment with the pediatric rheumatologist. When she finally got in to see him, he diagnosed her with polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). She started oral methotrexate and naproxen, but she began experiencing more swelling in her hands. Estelle saw another rheumatologist in Baton Rouge. He ordered labs, MRIs and bone scans. He determined that she had active arthritis in over 15 joints. Estelle began methotrexate and Humira injections. 

The pain of JIA left Estelle discouraged, and she considered quitting gymnastics. She met an Arthritis Foundation advocate through Flipfest camp and decided to continue her favorite sport. In August 2018, her medications began to work. She began making progress with range of motion in her foot. Her coaches were encouraging, and she was able to start competing in all four events for her level this past January. At her first meet in Tennessee, she tied for first place out of all age groups on the bars.