At 9, Taylor was diagnosed with a disease that changed his life forever. Taylor was diagnosed with arthritis. It made life difficult, but eventually, he realized he is more than his arthritis.
At the age of 9, Taylor really didn't know what arthritis was or who it affected. All he knew was that he was a shy kid who was just trying to get through school. One day, Taylor pulled off his socks and was shocked to see his ankle the size of a water balloon. At the time, his parents just thought he had a sprain and sent him to school the next day.
For that whole week, Taylor would complain about his hands and right ankle, saying how much they hurt and that he couldn't do anything. Not really knowing what to do, his parents still sent him to school. Eventually, it got so bad during the school day that he had to call and ask to come home. He still remembers one of his teachers being skeptical and saying he didn’t look very sick.
The process of being diagnosed with arthritis is long, especially for kids. A local doctor said Taylor should wrap his ankle. The next doctor put Taylor in a boot but said that he couldn't have arthritis because his symptoms were only in one ankle. Finally, after three months, a pediatric rheumatologist took one look and confirmed Taylor has arthritis. At the time, Taylor didn’t understand what arthritis was. He felt alone and was worried for the future and scared he would be left out.
While researching, Taylor’s mom stumbled upon the Arthritis Foundation. She and Taylor went to a local meeting and started becoming active members of the arthritis community. They participated in the Jingle Bell Run and in the Art for Arthritis gala. Taylor finally realized he wasn't alone. He also attended Camp Cambria, a summer camp for kids with juvenile arthritis. There were over 100 other campers who knew exactly what Taylor was going through. He made lifelong friendships and learned more about his disease.
Taylor wanted people in his community to learn more about arthritis. He started a campaign at his school and encouraged students to wear blue to show support for people with arthritis. He spoke at South Dakota’s Art for Arthritis gala about camp and shared his amazing experience. While Taylor’s own arthritis had gone into remission, it didn’t stop him from continuing to raise his voice. He became a Jingle Bell Run Youth Honoree and fundraised for the event.
After all his fundraising success, Taylor was feeling quite accomplished. Unfortunately, his doctors had unwelcome news. Not only was Taylor no longer in remission, his arthritis had spread to his knees, thumbs and toes. He was crushed but refused to let the news break his spirit. He hosted another day at his school to spread awareness about his disease.
Now a rising high school sophomore, Taylor is hosting his own Arthritis Foundation fundraiser in honor of Arthritis Awareness Month in May. He also competes through the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America to learn how to be a successful advocate. His project – It's All A Joint Effort – showcases Taylor’s efforts to make arthritis a talked about issue in our nation.
“I am still out of remission,” says Taylor. “But I hope to go back in it someday. I have hope in a cure. I have hope that I have made a difference. And for all the arthritis warriors out there, remember, you may have arthritis, but it doesn’t have you.”