LEWISTOWN - Since the age of 4, pain has been a part of Jenn Kauffman's life. But that hasn't stopped this Lewistown woman from succeeding in the things that are most important to her.
Because of her courage, Kauffman has been selected as this year's honoree for the Arthritis Foundation's Arthritis Walk, scheduled for May 2 in Boalsburg.
Kauffman was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 4. Rheumatoid arthritis affects every joint in the body, Kauffman said.
In the eighth grade, Kauffman became wheelchair-bound because the pain was so bad she couldn't walk. After high school, she had her hips and knees replaced, and then in 2001, she had her shoulders replaced, she said.
"I don't remember time without pain," she said.
Because of her surgeries, Kauffman now is able to walk without a wheelchair. One of the biggest goals she's accomplished is getting a driver's license, which previously seemed impossible.
"That was a huge step," she said.
Another goal Kauffman has reached was earning a general office clerk degree from technical school in 2000. She now works for Pine Glen Church of the Brethren in the Longfellow/Pine Glen area, she said.
Kauffman said she still experiences some pain, especially in her ankles and elbows, and she takes medication for pain management. For future treatment of her arthritis, her doctor has recommended she continue with the cortisone shots she's been getting, as well as her pain medication. She also may need more surgeries in the future, she said.
Kauffman said she has overcome her struggles through her faith, and support from family and friends.
Her advice for people diagnosed with arthritis is to talk to their doctor and get lots of information. Also, it's important to get to know others with the same disability, she said.
"Know that you're not alone," she said.
This will be Kauffman's third year participating in the Arthritis Walk, which is an annual nationwide event that raises awareness and funds to fight arthritis, according to the Arthritis Foundation's Web site.
During the event, different teams participate, and there is entertainment, activities and food, Kauffman said.
Kauffman's team, the Speedy Turtles, has 16 participants registered so far for this year's event. Teams are made up of those who walk in honor of friends or family with arthritis, family and friends of those with arthritis, and those who have arthritis, she said.
Kauffman said it's important to walk to raise money to help find a cure, and also to honor those who have the condition. Money raised during the walk goes to different areas within the Arthritis Foundation to continue research, she explained.
For more information, visit the Arthritis Foundation's Web site at www.arthritis.org.