Arthritis is not just an old person’s disease. Half the 624,000 Kiwis with arthritis are of working age
and around one in 1000 children has arthritis.
Jacob Toresen was one of them. He was just like any other active, sports-mad Kiwi kid when he was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis at the age of 11.
Life changed completely. Jacob woke up screaming in pain every night and he was no longer able to do many of the things he enjoyed.
He worried that because he was young and had few physical symptoms, people might think he was faking his condition just to get time off school. In fact, there were endless blood tests, doctor’s appointments, physio sessions, and the exhausting process of trying one medication after another to find one that worked.
Arthritis New Zealand’s annual Children’s Camp was an eye-opener for Jacob. There he was free to enjoy all sorts of physical activities, while his mum learnt all she could about his condition and talked
with other parents.
“It was unbelievably beneficial to me and my mum. I wasn’t alone and I had the proof right in front
of me. I could see that just because I had arthritis, it didn’t mean I couldn’t have fun.”
Now aged 19 and studying law, Jacob still attends camp every year to support and encourage other
children and their families.
He’s grateful to Arthritis New Zealand, along with his friends, family and medical team for helping
him live as close to an ‘arthritis-free life’ as possible.
“I wouldn’t change it for the world; it is part of me and my life… I’m not alone in this journey and
being diagnosed with arthritis is not the end of the world; rather, it’s a bump in the road that can be
overcome. I’ve learnt that I can still have a normal life.”