By Joan Goodchild, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – When he was younger, Jeff King enjoyed many activities, such as snowboarding and hockey. But he struggled with things that others didn's seem to have as much trouble with, like getting up off the ice or snow after a spill. What King would not realize until years later is that the pain and trouble that came with movement was the result of inflamed joints due to arthritis.
King, a 2012 Shrewsbury High School graduate, eventually sought help at a doctor's office in May 2009 because he was experiencing severe pain in his knees. After months of tests, he was diagnosed with polyarthritis, which is part of a Mixed Connective Tissue Disease. ?For many months, King was unable to take part in physical activities. He had to give up doing some of the things he loved most and sat out while other peers were getting active.
“I couldn's participate in gym at school because of the pain in my joints,” ?King explained.
With the help of treatment, King, who is now 18, has been able to resume doing some of the things he enjoys again. This summer, he has spent a healthy chunk of his free time on the golf course.
“I'se been trying to do as much as I can to make up for all of the time I lost when I wasn's feeling well.”
King's positive attitude and handling of his diagnosis has earned him the role as 2012 Central Mass Walk Youth Ambassador for The Arthritis Foundation of New England. The Central Massachusetts Arthritis Walk will be held Sunday, Sept. 9, at the Bancroft School in Worcester, and King will be there to represent and raise awareness about arthritis.
“It's not just an old person's disease,” he said, noting another youth ambassador for the walk is in just fifth-grade and suffers from the arthritis.
King's diagnosis and struggle with arthritis are also now shaping his future career as well. He will head to the University of New Hampshire in a few weeks, where he will study biomedical science.
“I'se always been interested in science, but since I got sick I'se become really interested in the biomedical field.”
He's hoping he'sl eventually be able to work toward cures for diseases like his own, and also noted he has a brother who has a heart defect who also influences him. He said he will be spreading awareness about arthritis for the rest of his life, and hopes people will turn out at the arthritis walk to show their support.