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Queens Chronicle

Despite the pain, she helps gain

Woodhaven girl, 10, raises money fighting to cure her rare disease

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Posted: Thursday, July 12, 2012 10:30 am | Updated: 9:28 am, Thu Jul 19, 2012.

Arthritis is a disease we commonly associate with aging. The mere utterance of the word conjures up mental images of older people suffering from the painful aches and swollen joints that are its symptoms. Rarely do we link arthritis and youth.

But for those who know Cheyanne Campo, arthritis is not an old person’s disease. Campo, who lives in Woodhaven, suffers from the condition at the young age of 10.

Juvenile arthritis is an umbrella term for autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that afflict children age 16 or younger. Campo has suffered from juvenile arthritis since the age of 3 when her parents noticed her swollen knees on Christmas morning.

But despite being troubled by an illness that could leave her with less limberness than most girls her age, she, with the help of doctors and modern medicine, is living a normal life. So normal in fact, she took part in a 3.5 -mile walk to raise money and awareness in the fight against arthritis.

Sporting T-shirts reading “Team Cheyanne,” she, along with family and friends, took part in the Arthritis Walk on June 23 in Battery Park. So far, Campo’s team has raised over $600 this year. This is the fourth year Campo is taking part in the walk.

“On the back of the T-shirt, it says ‘Walking for a Cure’ so they can find a cure for kids like me with juvenile arthritis and anyone else, because it’s hard for us to do activities sometimes, especially during the winter,” Cheyanne explains. “When I get sick, my knee bothers me with the rest of my body.”

Nearly 200 staff members from the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, where Campo receives treatments, also took part in the walk and the hospital has raised close to $20,000 for the Arthritis Foundation. The Hospital for Special Surgery specializes in orthopedics and rheumatology and was ranked the No.1 orthopedic hospital in the country by US News & World Report in 2011.

Although her condition often makes walking painful, Campo’s treatments at the Hospital for Special Surgery have allowed her to literally take strides to fight her disease. Thanks to an intravenous treatment she receives biannually, Campo is able to take part in gym class in school and run around like a normal 10-year-old at recess. She enjoys running and jumping rope, two activities untreated juvenile arthritis would have made impossible.

“When a child is diagnosed with juvenile arthritis, many parents are worried and upset,” said Dr. Emma Jane MacDermott, a rheumatologist at the hospital who treats Campo. “They are thinking about a future for their child full of problems, and we really like to reassure parents that’s not the case. A lot of parents worry that their children shouldn’t be in sports, they won’t be able to take part in physical activity, and that’s often not the case.”

Campo receives her treatment twice a year, but that is not a standard time frame. The treatments are customized to each patient. Campo’s treatment is based on the severity of her condition, which doctors said exists in multiple joints in her body.

Despite the pain and swollen joints, Campo advised children diagnosed with her condition that with treatment, the disease will not severely impact their lives.

“You don’t have to be that scared because after a while you’ll know it’s just a small part of your life, and you will just believe that it’s not even there,” she said.

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