By Tierra Harris | Web Editor-in-Chief
On Aug. 27, a crowd of about 75 at the Hendricks County THON were all able to step into senior Delaney Sweitzer’s shoes and experience the 10-year struggle that has greatly impacted her life.
Although her story is devastating to hear, Sweitzer’s ability to smile every day has encouraged her friends and family to have positive attitudes. She said that she intends to pass that positivity on to as many people as she can.
“I was diagnosed [with arthritis] six days after my seventh birthday,” Sweitzer said. “[At first], I was devastated, but I realized that what I have makes me special.”
Sweitzer said that having arthritis has negatively affected her body at times and a lot of restrictions have limited some of her experiences.
“I didn’t get a job until I was 17 because my health restricted me and my mom didn’t think I was capable of doing it,” Sweitzer said.
Before she was diagnosed, Sweitzer played volleyball and soccer, but had to quit because of her condition. Sometimes, usually during rainy days or in cold weather, it is almost impossible for her to get out of bed.
“[My arthritis] is everywhere; the only places that I don’t have it is in my lungs and eyes,” Sweitzer said.
Sweitzer also struggles with getting to class on time, usually during the winter because her joints tend to lock up and influence her mood negatively. According to the National Pain Foundation, being depressed from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can increase arthritis pain.
Although Sweitzer may struggle with her disease, she still manages to be productive and engage in normal teenage activities. Her mother is a key element in her own personal motivation, growth and ability to keep going.
“[My mom’s] been encouraging me to not let [my arthritis] rule my life,” Sweitzer said.
Sweitzer’s mother was diagnosed with arthritis around the same time that she was and together the two have dealt with the problem positively. After receiving the book Milk and Honey from her mother, she said that reading motivational poems help clear her head and put her back on track.
“She had arthritis her entire life and didn’t even know,” Sweitzer said. “[My mom] was going to school and raising two kids on her own, so she uses that to motivate me.”
Now, Sweitzer works at Panera Bread and is involved with Show Choir. Being able to participate in activities that she originally thought she couldn’t inspired her to encourage others. After presenting her first speech, Sweitzer now wants to reach out to larger audiences in the future. She said that she hopes to implant the same encouragement into strangers that she received from her own support group.
“My favorite quote is ‘Don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game’ because it embodies my thinking and keeps me going,” Sweitzer said.
Next year, Sweitzer plans to go to a community college for the first couple of years after high school, then transfer to either Purdue, IUPUI or Butler to major in Children’s Psychology. Her experience dealing with disease and her own family problems is her main motive to be a part of younger children’s’ lives. To everyone dealing with a problem, whether it be big or small, Sweitzer offers a piece of advice:
“Yes, I have arthritis, but I don’t let that stop me from achieving my goals,” Sweitzer said. “I have a problem and you may have a problem too, but you shouldn’t let that rule your life.”